TIRANA – The kick-off event of the “Western Balkans School Exchange Scheme” project took place today, Saturday 15 May 2021, at Europe House in Tirana, in the framework of “Europe Weeks 2021”. The project will connect Western Balkan schools and facilitate youth exchange. It will contribute to increase skills and knowledge of young people in the Western Balkans by enhancing education systems and promoting cooperation in the region. It will also strengthen the capacities of RYCO and establish a regional school exchange scheme.
The project is co-funded by the European Union (€4.5 million) and the German Federal Government (€1 million) and will be implemented by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH over the next three years.
EU Ambassador to Albania Mr Luigi Soreca and German Ambassador to Albania Mr Peter Zingraf welcomed the participants, highlighting that young people and youth exchanges have a vital role in regional reconciliation processes.
Ambassador Soreca stressed that “the EU will continue to look for every opportunity to listen to young people and support them in the region, with a particular focus on cooperation, education and employment. The Western Balkans School Exchange Scheme of RYCO is the latest addition in creating an environment where young people see their future in the region positively. The programme is more necessary than ever at time of crisis, when young people need a good quality offer of continued education, apprenticeship, traineeship and a diversity of experience”.
Ambassador Zingraf underlined that: “For Germany, RYCO is an important and very tangible result of bringing the region closer together, especially in the framework of the Berlin Process. From our own history and reconciliation process with our French neighbours, we know how important it is that young people of different backgrounds meet, exchange and build their future together.”
In continuation, RYCO Secretary General Mr Albert Hani emphasised the importance of school exchanges, adding that this new school exchange programme would be beneficial for teachers in the region. “This project will bring a new energy and peacebuilding spirit into the long-awaited reforms in education systems in the region of the Western Balkans, that in fact are in need to mirror the concerns and contemporary ideas of youth and those working with youth,” Mr Hani concluded.
The last part of the event was dedicated to an open discussion. Participants shared their experience with RYCO’s previous as well as ongoing projects and discussed how RYCO-supported projects have brought youth of the region closer together.
To access the recorded livestream of the event, please click here.
On “Western Balkans School Exchange Scheme” project
The regional project “Western Balkans School Exchange Scheme” is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by RYCO and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in the RYCO Contracting Parties (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia). The project, which will be implemented in the next three years with a total budget of €5.5 million will focus on supporting schools to develop and conduct youth exchanges as well as to design a regional school exchange scheme which will enable primary and secondary school students (age 13-17) to participate in a long-term RYCO exchange programme. In addition, the project aims to further strengthen the institutional and organisational capacities of RYCO.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with Security Council Resolution 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
© Photos: European Union Delegation to Albania