2016 Course for Promising Politicians: regional cooperation in Western Balkans

Between the 30th of July and the 3rd of August the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Belgrade office, European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity and Foundation Max van der Stoel (FMS) organised the second seminar of the 2016 Course for Promising Politicians. The seminar ‘enhancing regional partnership and cooperation’ took place in Skopje, Macedonia. FMS trainer Maja Nenadović and Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Nenad Šebek conducted the training.


Porta Macedonia, built in 2011 as part of the Skopje 2014 project that aims to strengthen the Macedonian identity. Protesters, that demand the resignation of the current government and free and fair elections, have ‘painted’ it with color bombs.  

Since 2003 the seminar has been organized three times annually and the course includes seminars on political ideology, media and communications skills and regional cooperation and EU integration. The aim of the course is to introduce young promising politicians from South East Europe to the various aspects of political leadership, governance and the dynamics and structures of party policies. In addition, the organisers aim to create a network among young, progressive, and politically active persons and to enhance their cooperation and improve their knowledge on the political developments in the countries in the region.


The seminar started with an introductions exercise which was participants' first sense of what it means to be in control of one's image in the eyes of the audience. Everyone introduced themselves, in ten words or less, in three rounds: in the first round, one needed to make oneself sound interesting, in the second round - serious, and in the third round, likable or easy to relate to. This was followed by a group brainstorm of the biggest issues affecting the countries of the Western Balkans. Owing to this, two group debates were held - the first one on the topic of whether we should stand up to our party leaders and openly criticize them, if we disagree with their policies (or stand by the leaders and party line, no matter what); the second debate on the topic of whether nationalism is beneficial or detrimental to society's progress. Throughout these 'performances', the participants received personalized feedback on how to improve their argumentation and their public speaking skills.

The first day was concluded by a lecture on fallacies, or the most common logical mistakes, and with a double role play exercise. In the first role play, participants were paired in teams that were stuck in elevators, with one person being acutely apolitical and averse to politics, and the other person being a political party member with a clear instruction to recruit more members. In the second role play, participants were paired in teams where one person was the fundraiser for Equality for All international human rights NGO, and the other person was a homophobe, nationalist, sexist, xenophobe, etc. The roleplay exercises presented real life challenges to the participants, where the previously discussed fallacies turned into familiar arguments and the tongue-tied impulse had to be broken through on-the-spot creative devising of response techniques.

Elevator pitch

The second day of the training began with participants presenting their prepared two minute speeches, on one of the three optional topics: (a) Why you should vote for my political party in the coming elections?; (b)Why young people should not emigrate/why they should stay in my country;  (c) What I believe in... The speeches lasted all morning, and each participant received feedback from both trainers, as well as peers. The afternoon kicked off with a proper, formalized British Parliamentary debate, and the participants argued Government and Opposition sides on the topic, "This House Would legalize soft drugs." The debates were engaging, interactive and exhibited debaters' good argumentation and critical thinking. Next assignment was designed to foster everyone's creative and design thinking, so the participants were divided into five groups, and each was tasked with coming up with a project or an initiative that would foster regional cooperation. The project ideas were meant to have clearly outlined problem and purpose/relevance statement, overview of key stakeholders and a feasibility analysis in terms of required budget. In merely thirty minutes, all five groups prepared pitches for 5 unique regional cooperation initiatives - all of which could turn into self-sustainable ventures, start-up businesses and cultural events.

The final portion of the second day was dedicated to a group discussion on sexism, double standards, and the treatment of women in public life. Some brief tips in rhetorical self-defense were offered to the women in the group, with the men asked to consider what it means to show solidarity and stand up for women's equality in political and public life settings.

Third and final training seminar in the framework of the Course for Promising Politicians will be held between 20-23 October in Belgrade, Serbia. The seminar will focus on EU integration and EU as a global actor. 

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