Last weekend (18-21 June) the second seminar of the Course for Promising Politicians (CPP) was held in Tirana, Albania. The seminar on regional cooperation focused on the interrelationships in the Western Balkan states, and on how cooperation between the countries can enhance regional stability and encourage regional growth. Over the course of three days, 27 young politicians followed several workshops on this topic.
Thursday: Main challenges of regional cooperation
On Thursday evening, the course was kicked off by Srećko Šekeljić from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). The participants had prepared country presentations on the main challenges that are faced while working towards more regional cooperation in the Western Balkans. Most countries named nationalism, crime, and cultural cooperation as the main challenges. Solutions mostly included increasing political, cultural and economic cooperation in order to improve the security situation; and the importance of simply understanding each other’s culture, and learning how to deal with it.
Friday: Political landscapes in the Western Balkans
The day started with a presentation on the political landscape of Albania by Andi Bushati, political analyst in Tirana. He discussed the strong ideological identification based on ideas and programs, Albanian politics and the position of women in the parliament. In many countries in the Western Balkans a specific quota of women in the parliament has been calculated, however, not all the women are as dedicated and well-educated as required. The second presentation was done by Nednad Šebek, member of the Regional Cooperation Council in Serbia, in which he outlined the need to work together in the Western Balkans. He stressed that all countries in the region must agree on the main challenges they face in order to overcome them. Each country counts for a population of 3 or 4 million, but together they would count for 18 million people, and thus have a much greater influence.
After the coffee break, Marko Pišev from the University of Belgrade, dealt with setting multiculturalism for stability in the region. Multiculturalism is important in regional cooperation in order to preserve the goal of cultural diversity, he said. People must understand each other. Failed multiculturalism should be corrected by correcting nonscientific culture. There should be more harmony and other ambivalent aspects. Dane Taleski, Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, continued by saying the political value is the most important one. Apart from that the rule of law is necessary to create good politics, he said.
The day was finished by a session of debates in which Channa Minke from Foundation Max van der Stoel (FMS), presented theory on debating skills. The first round of debates focused on enhancing fundamental rights in the region. The participants discussed two statements on the protection of national minorities and the concept of nation states undermining political stability and security of the region.
Saturday: From theory to practice
The second day of the seminar was opened by a lecture on media freedom in the Balkans by Remzi Lani from the Albanian Media Institute. Lani stated that media freedom in the Balkans is ‘between starvation and decline.’ In order to understand media freedom you need to put it in the democratic sector, he said. A positive sign is the increasing role of media freedom in the Western Balkan. Channa Minke used the theory of media freedom to launch a second round of debates on the limits of journalists and mainstream media freedom does not contribute to regional cooperation.
In the afternoon, Srećko Šekeljić gave a workshop on issue-based campaigning and advocacy. After some theory, the participants had to draw a campaign per country. Most of the presentations concluded that the role of the youth is prominent and is needed in order to influence politics.
Sunday: Prospects of collaboration
On the final day of the seminar the prospects of collaboration were discussed. Bosnia will organize a seminar in Split where they will invite two delegates of every country to participate in and to present their specific field work. As a prospect, one participant said that youth from different countries could work together, but that senior politics will be involved in case of implementing long-term projects. This program held the objective that all countries in the Western Balkan face the same problem. Another participant stated that ‘Regional Cooperation is much more important and carries so much more than we knew beforehand. More engagement will result in more cooperation.’
The weekend was mainly theoretical, with some practical workshops on debating and campaigning. Participants got to discuss after each lecture fully using the possibility to enter into a dialogue with other young people from the region. The course continues with a seminar on regional cooperation in Ljubljana, Slovenia in early autumn