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Trieste, 12 July 2017
Dear participants, dear ladies and gentlemen, in particular dear young people,
I am very pleased to join you today at the closing of the Trieste Youth Forum. Sixty 60 of you, young leaders and representatives of youth organizations from the Western Balkans and from the EU had a chance discuss and plan your future: the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union.
You have been meeting in this forum since 2015, thanks to the "Brdo Positive Agenda for the Youth in the Western Balkans". This year you meet here in Trieste – a symbolic crossroads city significant for the Western Balkans.
2017 is an especially important year for the European Union. We reflected in many ways: what do we want the European project to stand for? What should its futurebe?
2017 is also a year of celebration: we are marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and the 30th anniversary of Erasmus Plus. The Treaty of Rome laid down the foundation for the lasting peace among our countries and for what European Union stands today.
The young are amongst the most affected in these times of transition, often negatively. That is why I thank you for your active participation in your societies. Over the past two days, you helped us understand what matters to you, your thoughts, and ideas about
• mobility and exchanges,
• inclusion and overcoming stereotypes,
• entrepreneurship and participation.
You were concrete and ambitious. Great to see that etworking and regional cooperation are simply part of your everyday lives. At this forum young people from many different backgrounds came together, addressed common challenges, and removed barriers not only between countries, but also social backgrounds, disabilities, religion, and political views. In particular as a former youth politician myself, I am very interested in hearing your recommendations.
I want to underline how much the EU supports young people and students in the Western Balkans. This is through an extensive range of programmes and projects.
For example, in 2016 alone, Erasmus+ enabled more than 20,000 young people from the Western Balkans and the EU to work together on different projects – ranging from volunteering and youth exchanges to capacity building of youth organisations. At the same time, under Erasmus+ for academic exchange,
• over 4,000 students and staff from the Western Balkans studied across the EU and
• 2,167 participants travelled from the EU to the Western Balkans, representing an increase of 15% in comparison to 2015.
Mobility is vital for the Western Balkan region, as well as for the European Union.
The European Commission also has made sure the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) has been set up, and is now active. The first projects are planned for this autumn. These aim to promote reconciliation and mobility for the young generation of the Western Balkans. I am looking forward to following its progress.
Our Young Civil Servants scheme offers opportunities for young professionals from public administrations of each of the countries of the region to work and study together in a neighbouring Western Balkan country. Young professionals have a chance to build professional networks and acquire vital skills.
You and your peers should take advantage of these and other numerous opportunities that exist for you within the EU, or that are sponsored by the EU.
Your participation, your input and active involvement is the “bottom-up” approach without which we cannot achieve final results. This is why I have a very simple request for you. Be active! Go beyond connecting, and take common actions!Engage on the regional level, reaching out to your peers in your neighbouring countries and demand the tools & opportunities you need. Make your voices heard. Whether it's business or political work: we need yourentrepreneurship to boost the vitality of our societies.
You will present your recommendations this afternoon to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs so that they become instrumental in shaping youth policies.
This Summit aims to achieve other objectives too: 80,000 new jobs by 2025 – much more emphasis on smart growth, green growth; pushing the digital revolution in the Western Balkans that for young people will open a new set of opportunities.
Your involvement here in Trieste raisesexpectations. Now all of us need to step up the game and seize this opportunity to make youth the essential pillar for the development of the Western Balkans and faster integration into European Union. I am sure that we share this common vision. Today's conference was a new step towards moving forward. I wish you all a successful continuation of your personal and collaborative endeavours.