On March 29, 2023, at the “Holiday Inn” hotel in Skopje, Eurothink – Center for European Strategies, together with its partners European Association for Local Democracy – ALDA and Balkan Institute for Regional Cooperation – BIRC, held the initial public event (kick-off meeting) for the three-year project “Media for the EU” – Civil society program for the participation of the media in the negotiations for the membership of North Macedonia in the EU. The main goal of the project is to upgrade the media capacities for covering, monitoring and examining the negotiation process for the membership of North Macedonia in the European Union.
The event was opened by the Executive Director of Eurothink, Dimitar Nikolovski. David Geer, EU Ambassador to North Macedonia and Bojan Maricic, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, spoke at the event.
The representatives of the project team spoke about the project and its significance: Marko Boaria from ALDA, Lorik Idrizi from BIRS and Violeta Gligoroska from Eurothink.
The aim of the upcoming project is to improve the environment for media participation in the EU membership negotiation process; to strengthen the professional capacities of journalists to report on EU regulations, policies and values; and to encourage networking with European colleagues from the media sector.
Dimitar Nikolovski emphasized the original idea of the project – the need to communicate the negotiation process effectively with the public. He also referred to the great progress in the past decade in understanding the importance of the media freely discussing the development of European integration processes with citizens.
Bojan Maricic emphasized the necessity of proper communication of the European integration process with the citizens: “I think that for this process and this cause the government, non-governmental organizations and the media have a common mission. The process of European integration, especially with the new methodology, has also become a political process, which unfortunately in our country is increasingly politicized and misused for daily politics, which of course affects citizens’ attitudes towards the EU. (…) The sooner we start a discussion, the better we will be able to explain to the citizens why it is important to speed up the entry into the chapters related to the internal market, what we get if we make a green transformation faster, how much it will cost us as a country, from where the money will come for that, how to bring the road infrastructure to the point of being more ready for the cohesive and structural funds when we enter the European Union, etc. That’s why citizens should be well informed about the EU and we should make joint efforts to deepen the debate about the importance and all the positive changes and economic opportunities that EU membership brings.” “I am convinced that the project “Media for the EU”, which is supported from the European Union, will achieve the goal and will contribute to bringing the EU closer to the citizens and the benefits of that European system for the citizens,” said Maricic.
EU Aroambassador David Geer emphasized that the role of the media and civil society will be crucial in explaining the process and analyzing the challenges ahead, in helping to understand developments and bring the accession negotiations closer to readers, viewers and listeners across the country. He also emphasized the importance of the active role of the media in the context of global and regional developments: “In the past few years, we have faced a new urgency and seriousness on the part of the leaders of the EU, the leaders of the Western Balkans and others, regarding the enlargement process . This only gained momentum after the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The seriousness of the approach is not based on altruism, but on a common-sense assessment of common interest in terms of trade and progress, security and stability, and democratic values.”
Violeta Gligoroska from Eurothink briefly presented the structure of the project. “In the first year, the project will deal with how the citizens perceive the entry of North Macedonia into the EU, and what the citizens need to better understand about the European integration process. Furthermore, an important aspect will be the direction of the media and media professionals on what will be important and should be followed, how to convey it to the ordinary citizen, the new methodology of negotiations, etc. In that direction, one of the activities will be the establishment of a mentoring school for young journalists and interns in whose capacities we will invest with trainers and EU-experts on the topics, but also networking of the journalistic organizations from the country with the media from the EU member states in order to share of experiences from the road to the EU.” In the grant scheme, which will start next year, non-governmental organizations and media from the eight planning regions will be supported.
Marco Boaria presented ALDA’s role in the project as part of the organization’s commitment to media freedom: “An important principle is that the plurality of voices and the increased number of opportunities for dialogue lead to better local governance and more opportunities to express citizens’ concerns (…) ALDA also strongly cares about building a better future for young people, and a number of projects are focused on youth initiatives, usually with the universal goal of mobilizing an active base of young citizens.”
Lorik Idrizi emphasized the importance of affirmation and nurturing of professional analytical journalism as one of the important goals of the project, which will lead to greater public participation in democratic life and in the European integration process. “Against the anti-European narrative, whose components are disinformation, fake news and various forms of propaganda, it is necessary to encourage a different narrative that includes European values and the best practices that lead us to them.”
The project “Media for the EU” Civil society program for the participation of the media in the negotiations for membership of North Macedonia in the EU is implemented by “Eurothink” – Center for European Strategies in partnership with ALDA and BIRS in the period from 01.03.2023 to 28.02.2026 with the support of the European Union.