DISCUSSION PAPER: Balkan youth speaks up about digital issues: Lessons for the Conference on the Future of Europe
AUTHORS: Corina Stratulat , Paul Butcher
The Balkan countries have the know-how to contribute substance and methods as part of the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). “Make Future Together: EU and the Western Balkans from the Youth Perspective” is one recent experiment in participatory democracy that speaks of the potential of the Balkan countries to add value to the CoFoE. Its methods and results offer the EU best practices and lessons learned, as the project implemented a standardised method in a region-wide exercise.
In this sense, it demonstrated that the Balkans can operate as a microcosm or testing ground for EU initiatives: a model applied successfully in all the countries of the region, which share little in the way of political structures, can be scaled up to a Union of 27 member states.
The project also provides insights into a subject that is crucial for the EU: the impact of the internet and social media on young people’s lives and their socio-political engagement. The input of the young people who joined these consultations suggests not only that the Balkan countries share many of the same views and priorities as the EU. The region can also handle – and, indeed, wants to speak up on – contemporary issues of concern. From this perspective, this project helps to underscore that the EU should allow the Balkan aspiring member states to join the Conference process, even if only on a consultative basis.
By welcoming the Balkans aboard the CoFoE train, the EU would help build a future of solid and beneficial partnerships. And, like all great powers, it would demonstrate that it does not only preach, but can also learn from other countries.
“Make Future Together: EU and the Western Balkans from the Youth Perspective” is a two-year project implemented by the Think For Europe network, in partnership with the Institute for International Affairs in Rome, the Bronislav Geremek Foundation Centre in Warsaw, and the European Policy Centre in Brussels. The project is financed by the European Agency for Cultural, Education and Audio-Visual Policies through its Europe for Citizens programme.