Published on: 21 November 2017

Speech of Minister Ditmir Bushati in the presentation of the first call for proposals by the Western Balkans Fund

Thank you Alban,

Good morning everyone,

Let me first thank the Visegrad countries and their representatives, who are here today with us, for the invaluable help they have provided throughout this process, throughout these years. I would like to thank as well the ambassadors of the Western Balkan countries, countries with which we have collaborated for the creation of this initiative and this fund. I would also like to thank the European Union ambassador in Tirana because the European Union has encouraged us to work harder and have as many projects as possible in the framework of a better regional climate. This helps the democratic atmosphere in our region but at the same time accelerates the progress of Western Balkan countries towards the European Union.

Second, I think that through this process, our countries have matured a bit more with the compromises we have made. Once again, I would like to thank both the Western Balkan countries and the Visegrad countries, which agreed that the Western Balkans Fund's headquarters be in Tirana. Being the first headquarters for us, we want to express our full commitment to supporting this initiative not only in the monetary sense of the word, as it supports all Western Balkan countries, but also with other contributions. We have taken on a commitment together with Serbian colleagues that in the years to come, we will see the possibility of increasing the financial contributions to the fund.

Third, I would like to encourage fund managers, secretariats, which comprises experts from all Western Balkan countries cooperate with another regional initiative, such as the (RYCO) Regional Youth Cooperation Office. It is an initiative which also groups Western Balkan countries. RYCO should be considered as a complementary initiative both in terms of projects, and in terms of those who can benefit from these projects.

Last, I would like to say something about the human component which is crucial to us in the Western Balkans. Throughout the events or tables that we organize with the European Commission, in the framework of the Western Balkan Six format, or with the countries under the Berlin Process, but also at the annual WB6-V4 meeting, we talk about the human mobility component, how can we move towards a much more positive climate for younger generations by reducing the negative stereotypes that unfortunately still exist in our societies.

As the executive director was making the presentation of the call and the modalities of the call, the interesting component that is very similar to the Berlin process, came to my mind. In order to get a project, there should be at least three countries, there should be 3 applicants from three different countries. So, if there are 100 winners, it means that 300 organizations in different Western Balkan countries have benefited from this project. It is not just the financial value and the implementation of the project what is gained, but also human contact and interconnection in at least 3 different countries out of 6 that this format has today.

That is why I would like to encourage the leaders and representatives of the countries of Visegrad and the Western Balkan countries, the European Union, as well as many of the organizations that have their headquarters in Belgrade or mainly in Sarajevo, to cooperate as much as possible. In this way, representatives of civil society, university academic world and especially youth can benefit from this fund.

We are happy that culture is in focus, because the European Union itself connects the issue of culture with the issues of promoting the values of the West. I think that would be a very important thing even for the Western Balkans. It would ease the barriers that exist nowadays.

Thank you for being here and gave me the opportunity to be part of this important day. I hope and I will work hard with colleagues from the Western Balkans that informative sessions for this fund, being a regional initiative and not an Albanian initiative, receive proper attention and support from state instances. FBP is one of the first initiatives where Western Balkan governments have set a modest fund but we will work to raise funds gradually.

Thank you all!

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