S&Ds at a conference on youth in Albania: We remain committed to the EU accession and the youth in the Western Balkans

S&Ds at a conference on youth in Albania: We remain committed to the EU accession and the youth in the Western Balkans, Victor Boştinaru, Tanja Fajon, Knut Fleckenstein and Tonino Picula,

Today at a high-level conference on youth empowerment held in Durres in Albania the Socialists and Democrats reaffirmed their commitment to the European perspective of the Western Balkans countries. The S&Ds also reiterated the importance of engaging with the youth in order to tackle the challenges of populism and to develop initiatives supporting youth empowerment, economic growth and decent employment. Moreover, they called on the heads of states and governments, due to meet in Trieste for the Western Balkans Summit, to make youth connectivity and empowerment a main priority. 

The S&D Euro MPs who participated in the conference, Victor Boştinaru, Tanja Fajon, Knut Fleckenstein and Tonino Picula, had the opportunity to engage in a frank conversation with young people from the Western Balkans and discuss with them a series of issues of common concerns ranging from their perception of the EU and the accession prospects of all Balkans countries, to the challenges of populism, youth empowerment and economic growth.

S&D vice-president and responsible for foreign affairs, Victor Boștinaru MEP, said: 

“The accession process for the Western Balkans is one of the progressive family’s main priorities today. We strongly believe that engaging and involving the new generation is fundamental to the success of this project and this is why we organised this event. We have had a series of fruitful and necessary exchanges with committed and passionate European youth representatives from the region and we believe that only via strong co-operation with the people on the ground and with the youth can the EU play a stabilising and progress-driven role in the region and remain appealing. Youth unemployment, brain drain, rising populism and nationalism, coupled with growing EU-scepticism are only a few of the challenges that we face in the Western Balkans. 

“These are times when leaders have to act with responsibility: both at an EU and local level. We cannot allow the Western Balkans countries to be driven away from the European path. We have a common history and a common future. Here in Durres it has been demonstrated that this young generation has a huge potential and should not be neglected. We have to build new opportunities for the region together with them, achieve reforms that matter for the people and fight populism and nationalism through better programmes and realistic projects. Democracy and peace are not something that you guarantee once for all; they have to be continuously confirmed and reinforced.”

S&D spokesperson for foreign affairs and rapporteur for Albania, Knut Fleckenstein MEP,  said: 

“We are here today to engage with and discuss openly with the young people of the Western Balkans about the challenges they are faced with in their countries. Today, the youth in the region are confronted with unemployment and the lack of perspective which have led to brain drain and increasing frustration. The figures are telling: almost 50% of young people in the Western Balkans are unemployed. This is very alarming, especially when in Albania 70% of the population is under 65 years old.

“It is only by listening to young people’s perspectives on the challenges for the region and the countries' future in the EU that we can jointly promote youth empowerment. It is only by investing in the next generation that the EU can successfully build the future. More democracy and more rule of law are needed and these are as important as stability. The EU must therefore engage even more actively in the Western Balkans.”