Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Slovakia
Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hungary
European Movement in Serbia, Serbia
WiseEuropa Institute, Poland
Academy of European Integration and Negotiation, Albania
The project is supported by the International Visegrad Fund.
Reconciliation and good neighbourly relations are among the key priorities of the Stabilisation and Association Process of the Western Balkans, on its way from the burden of past conflicts towards a peaceful European perspective. In the framework of the momentum created by the Berlin Process, in February 2018 the EC’s “Enlargement Strategy for Western Balkans” introduced six flagship initiatives paving the European path of the region, with reconciliation and good neighbourly relations being one of them. On this path, the establishment of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) constitutes a positive step towards fostering the reconciliation and stability process, along with the education of younger generations to finally move away from hatred and infighting that tore the region apart. The Western Balkan countries have also established another regionally-owned organisation - Western Balkans Fund (WBF) – based on the Visegrad cooperation model and with the assistance of the V4 countries. Despite the ambitious objectives, these two bodies are still young in experience and potentially vulnerable to political elites’ influence in cases of bilateral disputes. For the reconciliation process to speed up and be more effective, regional ownership, stability and sustainability of these reconciliation initiatives still need to be strengthened. To fight the vulnerability of these initiatives to political influence and instability, strengthening of civil society, bottom-up formation of the reconciliation process, and support to the bodies responsible for it is of a key importance.
The proposal contributes to already existing reconciliation process with concrete ideas and proposals based on identified good practices derived from reconciliation cases in Central and South-Eastern Europe. The overall goal is to enhance the reconciliation process in the Western Balkan countries by sharing experience and good practices of the V4 countries.
The specific objectives are:
(1) to identify and analyze good reconciliation practices in the Visegrad countries;
(2) to generate an evidence-based debate on the current reconciliation process in the WB and its future perspective;
(3) to advocate for an enhanced and more structured reconciliation process in the region.
In particular, the project proposal will strive to follow a two-strand parallel approach, namely to establish a common position on the need to enhance the pace of youth reconciliation and ownership in the WB (the Joint Position Paper) and to identify the practices applied in five reconciliation cases – between Poland and Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia, Slovakia and Hungary, Hungary and Serbia, and Albania and Serbia – followed by concrete recommendations on how to ensure sustainability of the reconciliation process initiatives in the Western Balkans (especially with regards to RYCO and WBF overall goals). The applied evidence-based approach will be followed by advocacy activities with main stakeholders in the region, and a knowledge-transfer workshop with key beneficiaries to enhance further their capacity to autonomously apply this practice.
The planned deliverables under the project are following:
Over the course of the project implementation, eight events are expected take place: coordination meeting of authors of the Joint Position Paper, public event presenting the Joint Position Paper in Warsaw, public presentation of the five case studies in Budapest, closed-door workshop for RYCO, WBF and other interested actors in Tirana, and public events with presentation of the final report in Belgrade, Tirana, Prague and Brussels.
Coordination meeting of authors of the Joint Position Paper (April 2019, Prague, CZ)
A one-day private meeting of the authors of the Joint Position Paper will be organized in Prague in April. The team will gather informally during the evening before the meeting to share their expectations and current public debate in their respective countries on reconciliation process. The next day, a meeting will be held where each author will provide a general overview of their CSO’s experience in the field and the political situation in the respective country with regards to reconciliation and then the goals of the Paper and an indicative draft structure will be agreed. During the afternoon sessions, the authors will brainstorm and decide upon the final structure and table of contents of the Joint Position Paper, along with the division of the work and setting of deadlines.
Public event in Warsaw with presentation of the Joint Position Paper (July 2019, Warsaw, PL)
The public event will be organized in relation to the Summit of Poznan (in the frame of the Berlin process), as a symbolic way to ensure continuity of the reconciliation topic (which was put in spotlight at the Summit of Vienna in 2015) as well as in the wider frame of the EU integration process (at the occasion of Poland and V4 countries’ 15th anniversary of membership). The key findings will be presented to the interested groups (namely CSOs’ representatives, academics, policy practitioners, interested public etc.) that will attend the Summit during a public event in Warsaw, Poland which will be an occasion to advocate for the stakeholders taking into consideration the recommendations provided in the Paper. This public event will also follow a participatory approach, where the comments and suggestions from the audience will be taken onboard for the second phase of research work (drafting of the case studies and final report). Surveys tracking the opinions of the participants on the reconciliation and regional cooperation in the WB and their effectiveness and shortcomings will be distributed in order to gain a clearer and wider picture of attitudes towards the processes and initiatives in this area.
Public event with presentation of the five case studies (October 2019, Budapest, HU)
The five reconciliation case studies and their findings will be presented at a half-day public event held in Budapest. The event will also serve as a platform for discussion of the studies, feedback and recommendations will be received from the relevant stakeholders invited to the event (e.g. officials from relevant departments of the countries’ MFAs, Government Offices, regional institutions, EU institutions, expert community etc.) for the final report. Surveys will be distributed at the event mapping the opinions of the attended about the reconciliation cases and the case studies. The received feedback will then be taken into consideration when drafting the final report as well.
Closed-door workshop on knowledge transfer with RYCO, WBF, RCC, OSCE and/or other interested institutions (November 2019, Tirana, AL)
A closed-door half-day workshop will be held in Tirana with the representatives of the institutions working in the area of reconciliation (WBF, RYCO, OSCE, RCC, MFA) where the findings of the previously conducted analyses will be shared with the participants. The workshop aims at knowledge transfer from the research team to the officials of the institutions working in the reconciliation area. It presents an opportunity to discuss the issues and obstacles to the institutions’ current work and proposals on how to make it more effective and sustainable based on the research conducted in the previous phase of the project. Moreover, concrete examples, practices and insights from the work on the ground will be shared with the participants. The workshop will be held in Tirana because of the headquarters of the two regionally-owned organizations, RYCO and WBF, and it will rely on the Chatham House Rule.
Public event with presentation of the final report in Tirana (November 2019, Tirana, AL)
The final report will be presented by the partners in four public events including a discussion of its conclusions and recommendations with wider audience. The event will seek the participation in the panel discussions of some of the authors, representatives of key national institutions dealing with the topics of the project, international donors active in the field, representatives of RYCO, WBF and possibly youngsters that have benefited of exchange programs (such as Albanians studying in Serbia, Hungarians in Serbia, etc.). The event will be simultaneously interpreted from English into Albanian and vice versa to be more accessible also for local, national and regional actors and politicians as well as wide public who often do not speak English to such an extent to be able to participate in the event was it held in English only.
Public event with presentation of the final report in Belgrade (November/December 2019, Belgrade, RS)
The final report will be presented by the partners in four public events including a discussion of its conclusions and recommendations with wider audience. The event will seek the participation in the panel discussions of some of the authors, representatives of key national institutions dealing with the topics of the project, international donors active in the field, representatives of RYCO, WBF and possibly youngsters that have benefited of exchange programs (such as Albanians studying in Serbia, Hungarians in Serbia, etc.). The event will be simultaneously interpreted from English into Serbian and vice versa to be more accessible also for local, national and regional actors and politicians as well as wide public who often do not speak English to such an extent to be able to participate in the event was it held in English only.
Public event with presentation of the final report in Brussels (November/December 2019, Brussels, BE)
The event in Brussels, organized by EUROPEUM in cooperation with our Brussels office, will be aimed primarily at the EU relevant bodies and officials identified among the target groups in order to promote the findings and recommendations of the report and advocate for their implementations and to gain attention and support from the relevant stakeholders on the EU level.
Public event with presentation of the final report in Prague (November/December 2019, Prague, CZ)
The final report will be presented by the partners in four public events including a discussion of its conclusions and recommendations with wider audience. Event in the Czech Republic will be hosted by EUROPEUM in Prague, during the Czech V4 Presidency. The event thus could gain more political support and general interest for the event as the report introduces successful reconciliation cases mostly in the Visegrad region, helping to further promote the success stories of Visegrad also inside Visegrad itself.
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