Administrator: David Hoić, Assistant: Nadja Kačičnik
In the Declaration from the EU-Western Balkans Summit held on 6 October 2021 in Brdo, Slovenia, leaders from the EU and the Western Balkans launched a dedicated Agenda for the Western Balkans on Innovation, Research, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport - a comprehensive, long-term cooperation strategy that aims to "promote scientific excellence as well as reform of the region’s education systems, create further opportunities for the youth, and help prevent brain drain". The Declaration from the Summit also stated that the next EU-Western Balkans Summit would take place in 2022, under the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU. It is the usual practice of the EESC's Western Balkans Follow-up Committee to organise a High-Level Conference of social partners and other CSOs prior to the Summit, in order to discuss the topics of the Summit and provide the input of organised civil society from the EU and the Western Balkans. Since it is very likely that one of the topics of the Summit will be Youth in the Western Balkans, it is important that the EESC adopts an opinion on this issue beforehand, to be discussed and incorporated into the final declaration from the EESC's Conference.
As the EESC already stated in many of its opinions and declarations: a) the youth is of vital importance for the future of the EU; and b) enlargement is of strategic interest, both for the EU and for the Western Balkans. In point 11 of the Final Declaration from the EESC's 8th Western Balkans Civil Society Forum held on 30 September and 1 October 2021 in Skopje, North Macedonia, social partners and other organised civil society "emphasise the importance of young people for the future of the Western Balkans and therefore the importance of taking concrete measures to turn the region into a place with future prospects and opportunities for young people, enabling them to stay and prosper".
To improve their chances of EU accession and secure a more prosperous future for their citizens, one of the key priorities Western Balkans countries need to address are the problems facing their youth, who hold the key to such a future. Young people are a vital resource for development and an essential factor for peace and stability. This opinion should deal with common challenges and difficulties across the Western Balkans region that young people are facing today, such as:
- High unemployment;
- Brain drain;
- Inadequate education and lack of skills;
- Development of youth entrepreneurship;
- Enhanced cooperation in the region;
- Social and economic inclusion and participation in society.