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On Tuesday and Wednesday, 4-5 May, a two-day event was held within the initiative Make Future Together: EU and the Western Balkans from the Youth Perspective. The event was organised by the European Policy Centre (EPC), Brussels-based think tank (EPC) in collaboration with the Think for Europe Network. This two-day event, held online, represents the final event on this initiative.

On the first day of the event, a closed meeting was held, attended by youth representatives from each of the Western Balkan countries. Youth representatives were selected from consultations that were organised at the end of last year within the same project (you can find more about them here). Representatives of young people participated together with representatives of member organisations of the Think for Europe Network, and they discussed in groups the drafting of the Manifesto on Digital Space, an initiative that calls for a manifesto that will bring together the views, concerns, and solutions of young people, for young people, with a key focus on digital freedoms and internet use. The initiative itself was signed by almost 400 young people in less than two weeks. Working in groups, the young people discussed the draft Manifesto and what they consider necessary to be an integral part of such an initiative. This type of debate and inclusion of young people is unique in Europe.

On the second day of the event, the conference Make future together: Young people in the Balkans speak up on digital issues was held. In the event, the Draft Manifesto was presented by Lola Paunović, European Policy Centre – CEP Belgrade Junior Researcher. The position and attitudes of the youth were presented by one of the participants from the first meeting, Tasneem Nasufovic, a young person from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Education is a crucial factor to start from, where different stakeholders can play a role and contribute to an environment that will lead to a safer and more empowering digital space,” she highlighted.Tasneem Nasufović

After that, the panel discussion was held, with the following panelists: Stephanie Borg Psaila, Director for Digital Policy, Editor, and GIP Digital Watch observatory, from Diplo Foundation, Nikola Popović, Member of the International Board, European Youth Parliament, Alberto Rabbachin, Program Officer, Media Convergence & Social Media, DG CONNECT, European Commission, Paul Butcher, Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre – EPC. The moderator was Corina Stratulat, Senior Policy Analyst from EPC. They discussed what do the Balkan youth consider to be the biggest benefits and drawbacks of the internet and social media, what kind of regulation they would like to see, and which actors should bear responsibility for enforcing it. They also discussed how EU policymakers can learn from their deliberations. They gave their comments on the Manifesto and their opinions on what this exercise says about the Balkans ’ability to contribute to the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Paul Butcher presented a paper written by Corina Stratulat and him, calling Balkan youth talking up about digital issues: Lessons for the Conference on the Future of Europe. You can download the paper here.

Dr. Psalia pointed out that the EU with its regulatory framework already has a lot of influence on countries outside the EU, and that this can be seen in two examples – the EU regulatory framework is affecting the EU, but also countries outside the EU. This can best be seen by two examples: the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the European Union’s regulatory framework for artificial intelligence. When it comes to regulation, the EU representative, Alberto Rabbachin, emphasized that “although we must involve the state in regulation processes, we must be careful not to create the” Ministry of Truth “.

For more information on this initiative, visit www.mladirini.org – a platform for young people in all languages ​​of the Western Balkans, as well as in English. The platform features a number of blogs, podcasts, and infographics on environmental protection, information technology, democracy, and the rule of law.

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