On 19 June 2018, in Brussels, Belgium, the Antall József Knowledge Centre and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies organised a conference to discuss the challenges of the young generation in the Western Balkans.
A great number of representatives of civil society organisations and local and regional governments from the Western Balkans participated in the conference and the numerous workshops held simultaneously during the day. The event was opened by a speech from the European Commissioner Navracsics followed by two panel discussions of youth leaders from the region who debated how the Western Balkans could be more integrated in the European Union and how the brain drain could be stopped and reversed. A series of successes and best practices provided examples of how the countries in the region can become a hub for innovation.
The president of the Republic of Chameria Festim Lato also participated in the event and shared his view on the perspective of the Cham community and its relationship with the European Union. The Cham are one of the most European-minded people in the Western Balkans and would benefit greatly from closer cooperation and integration in the EU.
In the afternoon a panel discussion of parliamentarians from the European Parliament highlighted several practical steps towards integration. A focus on combining soft connectivity (for example, expanding the Erasmus+ program to include the Western Balkans) and hard connectivity (for example, investing in infrastructure and flight connections) between the EU and the Western Balkans was discussed.
During the debate with the parliamentarians the president of the Republic of Chameria Festim Lato also had a remark and question about the role of the EU in resolving the lingering Cham issue that Albania and Greece try to play down. The parliamentarians responded with reassuring that the EU is also a community of values and that the reconciliation in the region is a vital element for further integration into the European community.
The Prime-Minister Ali Aliu, Minister of Justice Elena Kocaci, President of the Football Federation Arben Arkaxhiu and Advisor Jeroen Zandberg also attended the event.