Fourth annual regional conference "Move. Link. Engage. The Enlargement: A Brand Old Story" was held on September 13 -14, 2018, in Belgrade, with nearly 150 participants. The conference was titled "Enlargement: A New Old Story", and the discussion focused on topics relevant to the European integration process of all Western Balkan countries.
The aim of the conference is to promote and encourage a regional approach in addressing common challenges and to encourage co-operation among citizens and civil society organizations, to support and promote reforms stemming from the European integration process in the Western Balkans, highlighting the important role of civil society organizations and the media.
For the fourth year in a row, the Conference was organized by the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society and Belgrade Open School. The Conference was supported by the Embassy of Sweden and “Europe for citizens” Programme, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Solidar Suisse, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, and consisted of two panel discussions and four parallel sessions.
On the first day of the conference, a project preparation workshop was held within the "Europe for Citizens" Programme which included around thirty representatives of civil society organizations from the region. In addition to the possibility of networking and exchange of ideas, through the modified open space method, the participants selected the best ideas that were subsequently elaborated into projects with which CSOs can apply in the next call within the Europe for Citizens Programme. The workshop was opened by Sanja Atanasković Opačić, the head of the Group for European Integration and International Cooperation in the Office, and Ana Drljević, from Ministry of European Integration.
In the afternoon, during the ceremonial opening of the conference, participants were addressed by Žarko Stepanović, Acting Director of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society. He emphasized the successful cooperation between the Office and the Belgrade Open School in organizing this conference for the fourth consecutive year. This is a great contribution to the promotion of the "Europe for Citizens" program, he added.
"Civil society plays an important role in the process of European integration, it is the main partner of the Government in this process, which is part of the criteria for accession." I am convinced that the development of a strong partnership is a proper approach in seeking answers to different challenges in our country, Stepanovic said.
The conference was opened by Vesna Djukic, Director General of the Belgrade Open School, who reminded that the goal of this conference is to encourage regional approach in the process of European integration and to improve cooperation between CSOs, the media, the public and the private sector.
"This conference is a chance to jointly answer many questions, as well as to actively deal with open issues," she said, highlighting the most important challenges the region faces: linking, youth employment, energy sustainability and environmental protection.
During the opening of the conference, Swedish ambassador Jan Lundin also addressed the audience. The ambassador emphasized the importance of promoting civil society in Serbia, but he also pointed out the visible progress in comparison with the situation of the 1990s.
Finally, Mateja Norčič Štamcar, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia addressed the participants. She expressed the belief that enlargement policy is one of the most successful EU policies for its transformative power.
Over the past few months, a large number of new EU-funded projects have been introduced, mainly related to regional cohesion, Stamcar said. According to her, this is proof that the EU is still engaged in the region and supports its integration.
"An inclusive dialogue and a pluralistic media picture are vital to European integration," she concluded.
The second day of the conference went on to discuss the impact that civil society and the media have on the European integration process.
Parallel sessions covered four different topics: connection, youth employment, energy and "fundamentals first".