Reviews from the fourth forum of the regional youth leaders

The Fourth Regional Youth Leaders Forum was held from Friday, 22 until Sunday, November 24 at the Park Hotel Novi Sad. The Forum brought together about two hundred proactive young people from the Western Balkans: Albania, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. During the three days of the Forum, participants had the opportunity to attend a series of presentations and panel discussions relevant to their homelands and their European journey.

The first day was marked by lectures by young activists, Nikola Pucarić, Mario Mažić and Ajak Majok. Their panels were collectively called “Forum Europe” and touched on the current state of the European Union, its future and the role of the Western Balkan countries in that future, what are the challenges of the European Union in general and how the students perceive these challenges, what would the Western Balkans countries get EU membership and whether it was once considered the other way around, I follow the way that EU countries have obligations towards non-member countries and what challenges the EU is facing internally and what needs to be changed. Then, the topic was open about what the EU might look like in five, ten, fifteen years, and what the global balance of powers might look like. The topic of migration, their effect on the Western Balkans and the way these countries have dealt with them in recent years have also been addressed. Through personal experiences during the years of activism, the activists have endeavored to bring the participants closer together and discuss with them how they see them and how they can individually contribute to building and improving the democracy and fairness of their country of origin. The last lecture on the first day was delivered by Kilian Kleinschmidt, a global networker and humanitarian. Through his experiences of growing up and working in a divided and crisis-stricken Germany, echoing the situation facing Balkan youth today, he tried to encourage participants and invite them to bond, emphasizing the importance of young people's joint action.

The second day of the Forum brought together high profile individuals of the region as lecturers and panelists. The ice was pierced by Branimir Brkljač, one who, as he puts it, is an "experienced beginner". Brkljač talked about start-up opportunities for Western Balkans youth, his path to success in private business, the importance of positively perceiving the diversity of the region and its cultures as strengths, and finally, an era of technological progress that focuses on overcoming all the kind of obstacles, differences, and possibilities of action from any end of the planet without being exclusively affiliated with a particular location. The name of the second panel of the day was "How we hear the local community in times of crisis", whose panelists were the mayors of Novi Sad and Ljubljana, Miloš Vučević and Zoran Janković. The focus of the panel was on the current problems that both mayors face, the ways in which they overcome them, the importance of communicating directly with citizens, the cooperation of local communities in the non-governmental sector, and the role of youth and their engagement in the prosperity of the city. In the end, the possibility of taking over good practices from Ljubljana and implementing them in Novi Sad was opened. The sequel was reserved for panelists, presidents of three countries in the region: Serbia, Slovenia and Northern Macedonia; Aleksandar Vučić, Borut Pahor and Stev Pandersky, and RYCO Secretary General Djuro Blanuša as panel moderators.

The topic of the panel discussion was about introducing young people to ways of making decisions in positions of power. The focus was on future strategic projects of importance to the region and strengthening mutual cooperation through concepts such as the "Mini Schengen", which would open up the possibility of reforming accession to the EU accession process of the Western Balkan countries. The perspective of young people in the region was discussed and related to the mass emigration and the measures that need to be taken to stop this trend. The next panel, entitled "Leaders shaping the future, the future shaping the leaders," hosted Sarajevo Canton Prime Minister Edin Fortu and Tirana Mayor Erion Velay. They spoke about the challenges they faced as young people in high positions in times of global migrant and climate crisis, and the accelerated return of fascist ideologies. They talked about the environment, ecology, the level of corruption and the non-inclusion of young people in politics and social processes in a general sense. They emphasized the importance of young people's action in local communities through positive examples whose implementation does not necessarily require huge sums of money, and stated that young people need to be more proactive and impose themselves and come forward first. After the panel, Majak, Mažić and Pucarić gave the closing statement for Forum Europe, with a review and digression of the previous two days. The day continued with three parallel workshops on "The Western Balkans in 2030 - Visions, Wishes, Reality". Workshop moderators were Vedran Džihić, Dejan Jović and Srdjan Majstorović. At the workshops, participants had the opportunity to get to know participants from other countries and share their views on the future of the region.

The third and final day of the Forum was opened by Irena Cerović, who represented the work of the UNDP in the Western Balkans. The next topic was: “Dialogue for the future: New opportunities for social cohesion - through cooperation to better understanding”, which was implemented as part of the regional project “Dialogue for the Future: Fostering Dialogue and Social Cohesion in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia ". As the name of the panel implies, there was talk of ways to bring young people from the region closer together for the sake of prosperity throughout the Western Balkans. Next, the shortest, but because of the problematic topic, to us who came before the "Academy for Women", perhaps the most interesting panel, concerned the data from the field on the representation of women and young people in local communities. We found that in the region, the position of the two categories is not particularly better, nor is their representation in decision-making positions at the local level adequate through the low percentages of that participation shown to us at the session. The next panel was led by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Northern Macedonia and Slovakia, Nikola Dimitrov and Miroslav Lajcak, who provided us with detailed information about the situation within the European Union and its expansion plans. The last panel, which included Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and the Prime Ministers of Northern Macedonia and Albania, Zoran Zaev and Eddie Rama, and RYCO Deputy Secretary General Tanja Miščević, leaned on the topic of workshops from the day before and aimed to bring interest together. ideas and wishes of young people with reality and heads of state of the region. The question was raised whether the countries of the Western Balkans needed to improve, adapt and create a system for their own sake and their well-being, or to meet the criteria of someone "on the side", in this case the European Union. Current political topics of the Western Balkans and the position of young people in the region were also found places for discussion. They talked about their mobility and the ability to use the capacities of these people and, in this connection, the question arose as to whether the Prime Ministers had any insight into the number of young people who left their countries. She gave a touching closing speech in front of organizer Sonja Licht, with the message: "Be bright, be bold, be locks."

As the Academy for women had her delegates this year on the Forum, you can read their personal achievements.

Ajna Katica and her review…
The best part was the three hour workshop where we, the young people, talked about what we think and how we feel, where I heard new things and where there were no empty political stories. I am glad to have met many friends and approached Humanity In Action through the Forum. I was also introduced to the idea of EU integrations more. I was inspired by the young representative of Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina (the panel with the presidents), as well as Northern Macedonia (the last panel with the prime ministers) and the speaker Branimir Brkljač. Then I heard the thoughts of young people and new perspectives that I never thought of. I was also very impressed by the President of Slovenia, the Prime Minister of KS and the Mayor of Tirana, who were the only ones who spoke specifically about the problems but were also positive at the same time (they were aware of the audience). But for me, the not so nice part of the forum was bringing in President Vučić, only to have him say that we would never agree on the past and the complete disrespect he showed towards the young participant who asked him a question about Tuzla by addressing him with "son" and practically denied (as always) that anything had happened here, I could already have foreseen. I do not regret leaving because I have gained a lot of new colleagues and friends, but I am generally disappointed with the forum-driven narrative.
No, za mene, ne tako lijep dio foruma je bio dovođenje predsjednika Vučića, samo da bi on pričao kako se nikada nećemo slagati oko prošlosti i potpunog nepoštovanja koje je pokazao prema mladom učesniku koji mu je postavio pitanje za Tuzlu, tako što ga je oslovio sa „sine“ i praktički negirao (kao i uvijek) da se ovdje išta desilo, sam već mogla predvidjeti.
Ne žalim što sam otišla jer sam stekla pun novih kolega i prijatelja, ali sam generalno razočarana narativom koji se vodio na Forumu.

Bojana Naimarević and her review…
The forum brought together eminent names and, although the topics present at the event are current and I had the opportunity to listen to them at other events, the perception of experienced activists and decision-makers in the region is new to me and it was interesting to hear how they see young people people, and even more what strategies they have to prevent them from leaving the Western Balkan countries. The topics concerning the local community and the (in) activities of the youth in them were particularly interesting for me to listen to in terms of personal experience I have in this field, as well as to open up new options for action that I have not thought about until now. The different concepts and visions of the European Union, its enlargement and enlargement have given me a broader spectrum and a broader picture of the scenarios that are possible in the region in this regard. Due to the concept of the event and the number of participants as well as the pace at which the program was taking place, which left us very little free time and anticipated very short breaks, unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to meet all the people who were present at the event. However, with the people I met, I exchanged views on all the topics that were the focus of the Forum and talked about the work and experience of each of the interviewees where we touched and the Women's Academy in the way that they asked me in front of which organizations I came from. and what the organization deals with, what plans it has for the future, and whether there is room for, if any, cooperation.

Ferid Omić and his review…
“Be bright”
The words highlighted by activist with decades of work behind her, Sonja Licht, opened the 4th Regional Youth Forum. “Bright,” meaning light; bistro, is a great description of young people who attended three exhaustive days of lectures, panel discussions and workshops. The 200 young people of the Western Balkans, from Saranda to Subotica, from Negotin to Velika Kladuša were credited with an unusually positive energy during the first day. Seeing so many energetic, enthusiastic, forward-looking people in one place is certainly one of the more positive stories from the region in recent times. In a region that such people leave every day, such a group should perhaps be the most valuable resource. That it is so likely only declarative will be shown in the next two days, when we will come in contact with those who bear much of the responsibility for the condition of our schools, streets, hospitals, and finally the plateaus in front of the embassies of those more desirable states.

“Be brave”
She continued with these words Licht. The next day we all encouraged each other, got to know each other and relax. Courage shook the half-hearted state of affairs in the main hall of the hotel. The gentle gentlemen, the guests brought with them some tension. However, three security services for the presidential panel had to be coordinated. I wonder, why are they so scared of their citizens? The easy answer is luckily. I too have recently been scared of a hook I didn't let eat when I was going through the screaming in my hands. Now I have to go home the longer way.

“Be bold”
The word that would best and most accurately describe much of the previous day is disappointment, not some boldness. It is clear to me that most of our tribal chiefs do not particularly care for our opinions and problems, certainly not for those who have settled on the political scene for decades. But again, when people who, for some sick reason, perhaps of a lower value complex, stand before you and appreciate you, because despite everything they have reached where they are, they should be worth something; and they so easily step in and ignore everything that 200 of you have to say, 200 people who are worth something for sure, if nothing for the reason that they were chosen to be there is extremely discouraging. But this, the last day of the Forum, should continue.
It's really hard to stay clear and brave and bold in a society like this. Not even worth it. It's easier, and I believe it's much nicer just to let go of the flow. It will be (k) if God gives. On the way back we were waiting for about 7 hours in the minibus. Not too long a ride, but enough to feel every bone in our body. It would turn out that even seven hours was not enough for all we had to share. A whole century would not be enough to exhaust the topics of conversation with such people. Probably the biggest gift was getting to know them. Newly formed friendships are slowly moving into cooperation.
The 200 people I met are not at all different from me. I always get surprised at this, and where I won't when almost every day I hear that "they are there" except they are not bloodthirsty beasts. One begins to believe that there are truths in that. I'm glad to reaffirm that "system is lying to you". Not only are they the same, but they dream the same dreams, they are tormented by the same torments, they fight the same battles. With them, it can only become clearer. In such a group, it's easier to be brave. And for them, and everyone else like them, it's worth being bold. Maybe that's what Sonja meant. I choose to believe so.