WESTERN BALKANS – Today marks four years since the six prime ministers of the Western Balkans signed the Agreement on the Establishment of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office. On the occasion of the RYCO’s fourth birthday, RYCO Secretary General Mr Đuro Blanuša and RYCO Deputy Secretary General Mr Fatos Mustafa wrote an open letter, reflecting on this important day for the regional youth cooperation.
Today, RYCO is celebrating four years since the agreement on its establishment was signed by the six prime ministers at the Western Balkans Summit in Paris on 4 July 2016. This day calls for reflection but also forward-thinking as great accomplishments are ahead of us.
RYCO’s journey started with recognizing the need for stronger youth cooperation in the region, with the awareness that creating stable and peaceful societies requires building trust amongst their citizens. We are convinced that a stable, peaceful and prosperous Western Balkans is a possible and achievable goal. That is why we persistently work on bringing the youth of the region closer together.
Through our projects and collaborative efforts on youth mobility, exchanges and educational initiatives, we have achieved to establish strong ties among young people in the Western Balkans. This is the greatest result of our work – the Western Balkans young people who are connected, aware of their shared challenges and dedicated to work together on bringing a new reality.
But this is just the beginning and we should not deceive ourselves that our work is done. In these four years, RYCO managed to make the first steps in bringing the change. We will start living better lives in a better region once we manage to come together and start looking at each other as allies not enemies, when our societies start resolving common issues together in common interest without competing, when we realize that there is no other way than cooperation.
We strongly believe that young people should be active contributors to democratic development, social and economic prosperity, and European integration, in an increasingly open region. Young people deserve a better future here and now – there is no better way to offer them such a future than to listen to their needs and act accordingly by involving them in each step of this endeavour.
However, as we reach another milestone, we also acknowledge the challenges that we as the region are facing. Even though some of these challenges are national or bilateral, the majority of them are common, regional and even global ones. They demand common solutions. The current coronavirus crisis is yet another testimony to the need for joint collaborative work. Young people in the Western Balkans are willing to take a leading role in addressing these challenges of our times, and RYCO is here to enable, support and empower them.
RYCO’s achievements are, above all, the result of the dedication and commitment of all parties involved in our journey – our six governments, donors and supporters, and every employee. On this occasion, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to each of them that embrace and support our mission. Without working together with them, RYCO would not be in a position to proudly keep working on the important task of changing the Western Balkans.
Last but not the least, in the previous four years, RYCO substantially grew. We developed our programs to keep being focused on young people’s needs. We partnered with numerous institutions, organizations and individuals to take into account as many views as possible. We managed to enlarge our team so that we can better serve our partners and young people. All this with one aim – a region where young people find inspiration to stay and build a better future.
For us, the past four years but also the future ahead can be summarized in three significant words which guide our work – reconciliation, trust, and cooperation.
We remain committed to these principles and creating a better region for all, and invite everyone to join our strengths in reaching new heights.
A better region starts with honesty and cooperation. A better region starts with youth.
Đuro Blanuša, RYCO Secretary General
Fatos Mustafa, RYCO Deputy Secretary General