Balkanica 5

Opportunities and challenges to mobility in the Western Balkans region

In September 2018, The Balkan Forum facilitated a discussion in Montenegro with young, bright people from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia who expressed their views on opportunities and challenges to mobility (free movement of people) in the Western Balkans, and shared their personal experiences, perspectives and convictions on this issue.

They speak passionately about their countries, cities that have their own soul, good people and hospitality, traditional food and drinks, beautiful beaches, lakes, parks and mountains. But, also about the prejudice, bad governance and politics related to mobility and young people, and about limited opportunities that they have to visit other countries in the region. And, about the need for more initiatives and joint work to build bridges, break down barriers, fight against the divisive politics and rhetoric, and demand removal of obstacles for youth/people to move freely in the region, without a visa, including for the citizens of Kosovo to go to Bosnia and Herzegovina and vice-versa.   

Participants included:

 - Andjela Dzakovic, ALFA Centar, Montenegro
 - Irma Handabaka, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fakultet Politickih Nauka
 - Isidora Martinenko, European Movement in Serbia
 - Nevena Dimovska, Praven Fakultet, University ST. Kliment Ohridski, Bitola, Macedonia
 - Tringa Rogova, AAB College, Kosovo
 - Urjolsa Elezi Bardhi, from Albania - International University of Struga

Questions discussed:

 1. Why is important to have the opportunity to travel and explore the Western Balkans region?
 2. What motivates you to visit a country in our region?
 3. What are the obstacles to free movement/mobility that you are aware of or may have personally experienced?
4. What can we do to address/overcome the obstacles and create more opportunities for free movement of people throughout the region? 

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Conclusions: 

 - There is a lot of prejudice towards other countries, ethnic groups in the region.

 - We need to create contacts and get to know each-other; visit/explore other countries in the region; get to learn languages so that we are able to communicate and understand each-other better. 

 - Countries in the region have a lot to offer as they are very rich in cultural and natural heritage including historic/cultural sites, beautiful landscapes (coast, mountains, plain fields), food (traditional dishes - unique to different countries), wine, raki, beer, etc. 

 - The more we travel, the more we get to learn/understand and value the rich diversity; create connections and friendships; and realize that we have much more in common than things that divide us.

 - Young people should not accept to be influenced negatively by politics, family or friends, but create their own judgment based on their knowledge and experience.

 - We need to create more opportunities and invest in exchange/study visits in the countries of the region, between youth, educational institutions, civil society.

 - We need to jointly/strongly advocate for removal of mobility obstacles primarily by Bosnia and Herzegovina towards the citizens from Kosovo and reciprocal measures by Kosovo.

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