PRISTINA – The conference “Strengthening the path for reconciliation and regional cooperation – Debate on European perspective of young Kosovars” took place in Pristina last Thursday. It gathered almost one hundred young people and representatives of civil society organizations, universities, international and regional organizations. The participants discussed the relevance of regional cooperation and reconciliation process towards a prosperous European future of the Western Balkans.
The conference organized by RYCO in cooperation with Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ), with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of Kosovo and the German and French embassies in Kosovo was the first event organized under the chairmanship of Kosovo of the RYCO Governing Board. It concluded that the role of RYCO is crucial in reconciliation and cooperation processes in the region.
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports of Kosovo Mr Kujtim Gashi who will also chair the RYCO Governing Board meetings in 2019 said that RYCO has done excellent work until now. He underlined that it is proof that young people of the region have a unique opportunity to travel and explore the Western Balkans. “As the Chair of the RYCO Governing Board for 2019, I am committed to having an active year ahead. RYCO will have my full support in order to provide even more opportunities for our Western Balkan youth”, Minister concluded.
Youth Representative of Kosovo in the RYCO Governing Board Mr Arianit Jashari pointed out that the young people of the region now have more opportunities for mobility in the region compared to the past. However, he said, we are still facing several challenges which are significantly affecting the regional cooperation, such the bilateral disputes and visa regime between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo is. Therefore, Mr Jashari continued, we should invest more in removing such barriers and enable an environment which supports regional connectivity. “I would like to see the Western Balkans being transformed from a source of conflict into a peaceful and stable region”, he concluded.
During his opening remarks, RYCO Secretary General Mr Đuro Blanuša said that RYCO is doing its best to support regional cooperation and reconciliation process in the region with its limited resources and underlined that RYCO cannot resolve all problems of the region. “RYCO has its clear mandate and will continue its work based on its strategic priorities outlined in its strategic plan”, he pointed out.
RYCO Deputy Secretary General Mr Fatos Mustafa said that we should keep in mind that it is in our responsibility to foster regional cooperation in the Western Balkans all together. “Only through shared responsibility, we can make the change we want to see”, he pointed out and concluded that individually, we are small but that this does not and should not prevent us from being agents of changes for a better life for all of us.
Ambassador of Germany in Kosovo H.E. Mr Christian Heldt noticed that the Franco-German story cannot be copy-pasted as a model since the context is different in the Western Balkans, but that it should serve as an inspiration for the region. What it is important in the process of reconciliation, he said, is the fact that it requires a new mindset and constant invest in it. “Even in the case of Germany and France is an ongoing process”, the Ambassador said and concluded that the societies of the region should not be discouraged because of the long process of reconciliation.
Ambassador of France in Kosovo H.E. Mr Didier Chabert shared the story of OFAJ, Élysée treaty and its impact on the reconciliation process between France and Germany. He highlighted that such a vital process as reconciliation is should not only be done between governments but also between people and societies.
Both embassies appreciated the work of RYCO in its endeavors of contributing to cooperation and reconciliation in the region and ensured RYCO that they will continue to support it.
OFAJ Representative Mr Frank Morawietz stated that OFAJ has supported millions of young people in youth exchanges between Germany and France, and underlined that OFAJ has also been engaged in the Western Balkans. “We supported the process of regional cooperation for many years now”, he said and concluded that RYCO remains one of its strategic partners to enhance reconciliation and regional youth cooperation in the Western Balkans.
Photo: FB/German Embassy Pristina
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence