The Balkan region has always been the epicenter of many conflicts in the past centuries. The Balkan wars, two conflicts that took place in the Balkan Peninsula in 1912 and 1913, are indisputably an important part of the European history, that was the start of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Equally important were Yugoslav Wars that broke out few years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, wars that exploded among different ethnic groups that formed Yugoslavia and led to the formation of Europe as we know it today. From the official end of the war in 2001, Balkan countries slowly but firmly made progress towards economic, social and political development based in our common European, democratic heritage. In fact, nowadays, some of them recently joined European Union and some are in the process of joining EU.
The opening up of countries in Central, Eastern and Western Europe and their accession as member states to the EU brings new dimension to youth issues. In this context youth participation becomes a means for promoting democracy and active citizenship (Kovacheva 2001). However, there are current challenges that affect the democratization process of the Balkan countries, such as poverty, unemployment, corruption, access to social rights and participation of youth in society. Hence, involving youths in addressing such issues is fundamental. Youth participation represents the opportunity of young people to understand democracy and responsibility, in order to be able to deal with democratic values, youth social and human rights and to contribute to the development of democratic structures in their countries, with faith in public authorities, contributing at the same time in the fight against corruption and the strengthening of democracy.
“You(th) in the center” is a 15-month (July 2017-September 2018), 4-country (Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania) Structured Dialogue project (Key Action 3 Erasmus+ Youth) aiming to establish a network of young people and youth organizations that will contribute to structuring regional thematic cooperation between youngsters on the one hand and public and local authorities on the other. The aim of this cooperation is to improve the environment for youth participation, in particular of young people with fewer opportunities. By encouraging Structured Dialogue between young people and youth decision-makers this project aims to improve young people’s access to social rights. In the context of youth participation, this project aims to explore what the democratization of knowledge in civil society and active youth participation means in practice.
-Raise awareness of young people’s social rights and their opportunity of engaging in dialogue with the decision-makers, experts and representatives of public authorities in the field of youth
-Bring together – by means of creating a youth network – young people who are suffering from unemployment and poverty, young people from ethnic or religious minorities, with migrant background, young refugees, and to motivate them for political involvement and active participation in civic life within their societies
-Promote European values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (based on Article 2, Treaty on European Union)
-Increase the level of active citizenship of young people and, consequently build social conscience for democratic participation, both in a local level in their communities and in a European one
-Provide young people the opportunity to develop their competences on tackling personal problems such as unemployment and poverty or problems that their community is facing, such as exclusion from institutions and corruption, by active youth participation
-Promote active participation of young people in Balkans in the development of policies and laws that concern them
-Inform participants on the Erasmus+ Youth Programme for 2014/2020, giving special focus on active inclusion of youth
Participants (50 participants: 20 Greece, 10 Bulgaria, 10 Serbia, 10 Albania)
-Young people between 18 and 30 years old
-Young people from rural areas, unemployed youngsters, marginalized youngsters, from religion and cultural minorities and with migrant/refugee background
-To have the chance to multiply the outcomes of project
-To be committed to participate in the whole program
Activities and Methods
-1,5-day Kick-off meeting in September 2017 in Larissa, Greece (10 participants: 4-Greece, 2-Bulgaria, 2-Albania, 2-Serbia)
-Local activities: workshops / meetings with decision makers / debate event during EU Youth week in each country / interviews / exhibition / create a video – topics: active young citizens / active youth participation (October 2017 – May 2018) (all the participants)
-3,5-day Structured Dialogue / Closing of the project meeting in June 2018 in Larissa, Greece (all the participants)
Information package: “You(th) in the Center” Information