A five-day on-line conference “Re-boot Europe” gathered more than 100 young Europeans from the Western Balkans, Croatia, Germany and France, who had an opportunity to discuss and share their opinions and proposals about the future of Europe, as well as about the dealing with the past, reconciliation, solidarity and climate change.

The “Re-boot Europe!” conference was organized alongside the Summit of the EU Council, where a historical agreement has been reached today, marking a new phase of the European Union. To a certain extent, the Summit gave answers to the questions and proposals discussed by young Europeans over the previous five days.

At the final discussion and closing ceremony of the conference, a joint Declaration made by participants was presented, containing young people’s messages and recommendations on the occasion of Germany assuming presidency of the Council of the EU, with special emphasis on dealing with the past, as well as on co-operation of the states in the period following the crisis caused by Covid pandemic which hit not only Europe, but the whole world.

The participants have stated in the Declaration that Member States of the European Union, as well as Western Balkan countries, must support more vigorously the ideas, efforts and initiatives for more active co-operation between citizens and states and not forget the fundamental values Europe is built on – peace, democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law. Alongside the respect for basic European values, young people in the Declaration have stated that the European Union should confront more actively autocratic and nationalist tendencies in societies and government in and outside the Union.

In the Declaration, the participants have addressed the dealing with the past and reconciliation, stating that both citizens and politicians must confront more actively the relativisation and denial of confirmed war crimes committed on the European territory in the late 20th century, primarily in order to prevent any such crime from happening ever again and make sure that all victims of crimes committed during the 1990s are recognized and respected.

Next, young Europeans from the Western Balkans, Croatia, Germany and France have reminded in the Declaration of the problem of migrants and refugees, sending a message that EU’s approach to this topic should be revised and joint migration policy should be adopted, which would be visible in practice and which would be based on genuine solidarity instead of xenophobia. The Declaration has also reminded that, especially in the Western Balkan region, more attention should be paid to brain drain and to creating more space for participation of young people in political, economic, cultural and every other segment of life.

Foto: Twitter/ Anne-Marie Descôtes

At the closing ceremony of the “Re-boot Europe!” conference, French Ambassador to Germany Anne-Marie Descôtes, German Minister for Europe Michael Roth and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania, Ditmir Bushati, addressed the participants and young people from the whole of Europe who watched the conference over the internet.

On the day when the EU made a decision on the seven-year budget and a single recovery package, Michael Roth, German Minister for Europe said at the “Re-boot Europe!” conference that young people’s advocating for co-operation and solidarity, as well as participants’ recommendations, represent an excellent opportunity for giving more space for the Western Balkan voice.

“Responsibility should not be shown only at school and in your communities, but also in the political life. Without you (young people) everything has much less sense”, said Roth to the participants.

The “Re-boot Europe!” conference was organised on July 16-21 by OFAJ/DFJW (French-German Youth Office), Western Balkan Regional Youth Co-operation Office, Youth Initiative for Human Rights, and partner organisations from France and Germany with support of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The participants were young people from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.