Strengthening bonds between alienated neighbors in the region: Greece, Bulgaria, North Macedonia
After two years of pandemic and restrictions, the organization SEE in Action, managed to bring together youth organizations from Greece, Bulgaria and North Macedonia with funding and support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The organizations met in Thessaloniki, Greece and worked intensively on the topic "Education and Employment" from 6 to 8 May 2022. This event is the first of three that make up the entire project “Strengthening bonds between alienated neighbors in the region: Greece, Bulgaria, North Macedonia”. The next events will take place in Skopje, North Macedonia and in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The aim of the project is to bring together the youth of the three neighboring countries, Greece, Bulgaria and North Macedonia. In a circle of professional, yet youth-friendly, round-tables, issues that concern young people will be discussed, so that participants find similarities and differences, as well as common ground for improvement. Youth empowerment and good neighbouring relations are prerequisites for resolving key issues that concern young people at a trilateral level.
The event was hosted by Ms. Eleni Siapikoudi, FNF representative and Ms. Anna Mpampili, General Coordinator of SEE in Action, who gave a welcome speech. Afterwards, Ms. Siapikoudi presented the history, the objectives and the values that Friedrich Naumann Foundation stands for. The program of the upcoming days was presented in detail, and then the representatives of each organization were given the opportunity to present themselves and their work as a whole. Specifically, the organizations that took part were Young Liberals and EduAct from Greece, Youth Alliance, Inova Lab and Liberalno Demokratska Mladina-LiDeM from North Macedonia and National Youth Forum Bulgaria and МлаДа България from Bulgaria. The aspiration of the organizers was that in this event, as well as in the upcoming ones, common policy recommendations would be extracted and disseminated to all respective institutions and stakeholders. In this way, young people can have a voice, by forming practices and recommendations based on their expertise and own concern, after a fruitful and opinion-exchanging procedure. Youth practices should not only be undertaken with respect to youth, but also from youth itself.
During the event, statistics and research results on the state of education in all three countries were presented by Nikos Bakirtzis, founding member of SEE in Action. He also presented the results of the latest SEE in Action research on the state of youth unemployment and the phenomenon of brain drain, which is gaining momentum. It was generally agreed that these issues are encountered in the three countries, especially in the last decade. These topics provided a strong basis for productive and in-depth discussions between participants. It has been observed that, in Greece,Bulgaria and North Macedonia, migration outflows of mainly young people each year are due to unemployment and poor labor conditions, whereas access to the labor market is restricted. Respectively, education in all three countries has major deficits, especially due to poor distribution of funds and lack of digital skills among the teaching personnel. Furthermore, both education and employment institutions are fully bureaucratic mechanisms, which restrains young people.
Having reached those conclusions, participants were divided into mixed working groups and discussed the results of the surveys, as presented. Subsequently, they had the opportunity to form some concrete policy proposals on tackling weaknesses.
On Sunday, May 8, Ms. Anna Bampili moderated the final round table discussion for the formation of a total recording of the proposals of the working groups. In a friendly and cozy atmosphere, participants revised and reformed their ideas, as well as provided the organizers with their views on how dissemination and promotion to the competent institutes could be achieved.
Overall, all three days were productive, whereas important issues for young people were stressed out. All ideas, opinions and suggestions will be included in a final report document with policy recommendations, including the material that will be collected in the upcoming two events of the project, which will focus on issues regarding human rights and sustainable development respectively. What made this event an exquisite experience, however, was the inclusive environment, the diverse participants and the importance of the topics under discussion.
It is, therefore, important to support such youth initiatives in the region and give the floor to young people, so that they express their views and visions, on vital issues of their interest.