#EURegions Week - EU4Balkans


Author: Merima Uštović-Kapetanović

 The biggest annual Brussels-based event on the cohesion policy, European Week of Region and Cities, this year was held from 11th - 14th October. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the second year of the online format with more than 10.000 participants online. The theme was - Together for Recovery, and its goal was to keep communities connected through exchanging the best practice and ideas between partners and participants on four themes: cohesion, green transition, digital transition and citizens’ engagement.


Thursday, 14th of October, started with an online workshop and 45 minutes long online concert moderated by Olaf Bruns. He was representing the 1001 valises, an organization that stands behind the Balkan Trafik Festival. This online debate was about sharing experiences between the EU and Western Balkans in common values such as inclusion, solidarity, multilateralism and global partnership. Like Balkan Trafik Festival, the aim is to connect Western Balkans to Europe through culture. The main speakers were Fjoralba Caka, Former Deputy Minister of Justice and Lecturer of EU Law from Albania, Seven Kadrievi, Brass bend from the Republic of North Macedonia, Slawomir Tokarski from European Commission and Adrijana Nikitovic, EU Youth Ambassador from Serbia. 


The main reason for this workshop was to develop and strengthen the identity of the Interreg IPA ETC programs and to share experience between Western Balkans and EU, with participants from Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Why on this online debate that is about Western Balkans were not participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina? The answer came in a private response from Gilles Kittel from European Commission: Dear Merima, Bosnia and Herzegovina is well on our list! Just we had to make some choices for this event. But more events and debates will come and BiH will be duly considered.  During the workshop, attendants were sharing different approaches and experiences with the inclusion of minorities in education, accessibility of social inclusion, and cultural inclusion.

We are all living in a bubble


While speakers were debating about solutions in terms of social change, with the highlight on Roma people in social activity and proper education to all, Fjolarba Caka made a great conclusion - we are all living in a bubble thinking that all of the people have access to digital tools. Access to education in the last two years was closely related to proper access to technology and internet. This was, and still is, one of the biggest problems during the online pandemic time. Online education showed us a big poverty problem, not only in Western Balkans but in the whole world. We all need to participate in empowering people and making social changes. The main problem of this session, which was about Western Balkans, is that we didn't have representatives from all of the countries that are part of this area. That is a great omission because it didn't give us the entire picture of the Western Balkans.


Bosnia and Herzegovina has Selma Selman. She is making changes, proudly highlighting that she is a Roma woman. As a world-known artist, Selma's social activism is an example of inclusion. And she is a world thing, not only a Bosnian artist. But, EU4Balkans thought that 45 minutes of Brass bend is a better thing to hear than representatives from BiH or Kosovo. Maybe Selma Selman's real-life experience with empowering young Roma girls is a better thing to show in Brussels from Western Balkans.