On the 8th of September, 2023, an inspiring event took place at the OPENS Center in Novi Sad, Serbia. The event, known as “RYCO Youth Talk – Reconciliation festival” which was organized by RYCO in cooperation with the organizing committee of the Festival of Reconciliation and Kulturanova, brought together young people from across the Western Balkans to engage in meaningful discussions with distinguished guests – H. E. Pierre Cochard, the French Ambassador to Serbia and Carsten Meyer-Wiefhausen, the Deputy German Ambassador to Serbia. This unique gathering served as a platform for the youth to share their perspectives, foster cross-cultural understanding, and strengthen diplomatic ties between them. There was a special focus on the 60th anniversary of the existence of the Franco-German youth office and the signing of the Elysée Treaty.
The Youth Talk event attracted a diverse group of young individuals from across the region like Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Kosovo*. These attendees came from various backgrounds, representing different cultures, languages, and viewpoints. Most of the participants also took part in the summer school that took place behind the scenes, as an important part of the Reconciliation festival, of which this Youth Talk was a part also. The OPENS Center, known for its commitment to youth empowerment and education, was the perfect setting for this intercultural exchange.
One of the key speakers at the event was the French Ambassador to Serbia, who emphasized the importance of youth engagement in diplomacy. He acknowledged the vital role young people play in shaping the future of their nations and expressed his enthusiasm for hearing their opinions on pressing global issues.
The discussion revolved around the importance of understanding and examining history to prevent its instrumentalization by various individuals, including regional leaders. It was emphasized that young people should be encouraged to make their own assessments of both their personal history and the historical events within the region.
The Deputy German Ambassador to Serbia also addressed the audience, emphasizing the significance of French-German relations within the broader European context. He commended the commitment of young individuals in the region to work towards a more peaceful and prosperous future.
During his speech, the Deputy Ambassador stressed specifically that he commends the event organized by RYCO and OPENS on that day, as it incorporated representatives and participants from the entire region in a discussion that highlighted the substantial benefits of exchanging diverse viewpoints, experiences, and knowledge.
The event featured interactive panel discussions and Q&A sessions after the speeches. Attendees discussed topics like reconciliation in German and French societies and the role of regional youth in reconciliation efforts. These discussions emphasized the importance of involving young people in addressing historical grievances through both formal and informal education.
The Youth Talk event in Novi Sad on September 8, 2023, promoted cross-cultural understanding, peace-building, and cooperation, drawing inspiration from the successful reconciliation between France and Germany. It underlined the need to engage youth in shaping the future and including them in reconciliation processes early on, one dialogue at a time.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
Photo by Aleksandar Andjic.