Eurothink coffee debate: “Common visions, common challenges: relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria through the youth prism”
On September 4th, 2023, Eurothink – Center for European Strategies held the second Eurotink coffee debate entitled: “Common visions, common challenges: relations between North Macedonia and Bulgaria through the youth prism”. This coffee debate was held within the framework of the project: “Connecting civil societies: North Macedonia and Bulgaria”, the project was supported by the Czech Embassy in Skopje, and the speakers of the debate were:
Mr. Dimitar Nikolovski, Executive Director of Eurotink – Center for European Strategies;
Mrs. Maria Kanelopoulou, First Counselor, Cross-Border Cooperation-EU Delegation;
Mr. Miroslav Cekov, National Youth Forum-Bulgaria;
Mrs. Nina Jovanovska, Youth Union of Krushevo;
Mr. Isak Missini, Moderator.
According to Mr. Dimitar Nikolovski – executive director of Eurotink, the main goal of the project: “Civil Society Connections” is building mutual trust, preventing future conflicts and reconciliation based on mutual understanding and respect. The project should yield two results: increased cooperation and positive relations between the representatives of the two communities, and building a calmer atmosphere by clearing up some misconceptions we have about each other.
Mrs. Nina Jovanovska, from the Youth Union from Krushevo, especially emphasized the role of young people and how crucial their participation in bilateral processes is. The Youth Union from Krushevo, in cooperation with the National Youth Forum in Bulgaria, actively involves young people in discussions and initiatives, including the “Collective Impact for Peace” project, in order to strengthen bilateral relations and improve cooperation between North Macedonia and Bulgaria .
According to Mrs. Maria Kanellopoulou, this event comes at the right time and with the right context, there is no better audience that will accept it than the young generation, which is the one that will implement these ideas in the future. Events like this coffee debate, which although seem obvious, are of enormous importance. Perspectives can be exchanged by just opening a door and talking to a neighbor about questions, challenges, ideas, ambitions, etc. These are things that are common to all young people across neighboring borders.
Mr. Miroslav Cekov added to all this that turning the focus from the past to the present, creating platforms for open dialogue and changing the political narrative is crucial, especially among young people, who are drawn to policies that create opportunity and can help support democracy. in the region by highlighting common problems and promoting cooperation. Continuous and focused youth policies can highlight and emphasize the importance of cooperation, dialogue and civic participation across borders.
These speeches from the audience were followed by Mr. Filip Milenkoski, who is a Young European Ambassador, and Mr. Kristijan Andreev, who is the president of the Bulgarian Youth Association. According to the young European ambassador Milenkoski, regional cooperation with active integration of young minds is the bridge to the future where borders fade, opportunities bloom, and togetherness paves the way for long-term progress. The representative of the Bulgarian Youth Association emphasized that the debate raised important issues from the youth perspective and served as a starting point for future cooperation between civil society organizations from the two countries, which will contribute to a better perception of our common needs.
All the speakers from this coffee debate came to a similar conclusion, which is that the participation of young people in bilateral policies and cooperation is crucial because they are the future and it is up to them to shape the best possible future, but the speakers also emphasized the roles of organizations, the media and politicians as the biggest instigators in this process and together with the young drivers towards a more successful neighborly future.
This coffee debate is part of the project: Connecting Civil Societies: North Macedonia and Bulgaria, supported by the Czech Embassy in North Macedonia. The Eurohink coffee debate is the sole responsibility of EUROTINK-Centre for European Strategies and can in no way be considered to reflect the views of the Czech Embassy in Skopje.