The recent “Bridging the Gap” conference held in Brussels proved to be a significant platform for fostering dialogue and collaboration between Members of Parliament and civil society representatives from the Western Balkans region. With a focus on enhancing youth engagement and addressing critical regional issues, the three-day event provided a unique opportunity for knowledge exchange, networking, and the formation of future partnerships. From Center for Intercultural Dialogue as a participant was Besart Shabani, our project coordinator, who shares his enriching experience.

The conference, which took place from April 25th to 27th, facilitated meaningful discussions between 19 Members of Parliament, 20 civil society organization representatives, and three Young Political Leaders alumni. The atmosphere was characterized by an open and inclusive dialogue, commitment, and cooperation. Participants engaged with Members of the European Parliament, key figures such as Vladimir Bilčík and Matjaž Nemec, and representatives from European institutions and civil society organizations.

Throughout the event, crucial topics were addressed, ranging from the role of youth in the European Union integration process to pressing issues like the green agenda, digital transition, and the impact of disinformation. Participants emphasized the significant role of young people in shaping the region’s future and stressed the necessity of amplifying their voices within the policy-making system. The discussions were complemented by sessions observing the functioning of European Parliament committees and valuable exchanges with notable figures such as Commissioner Nicolas Schmit and Director-General Gert Jan Koopman.

For Besart, the conference was an unforgettable experience. Interacting with intelligent individuals, including young MPs from the Western Balkan countries and passionate members of civil society, friendships were formed, and future partnerships began to take shape. The conference not only broadened perspectives but also provided a platform to create lasting connections and initiatives aimed at driving positive change.

Co-organized by the European Parliament’s Mediation and Dialogue Support Unit and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, the Bridging the Gap event served as a platform for forging partnerships and collaborations. Representatives from parliaments across the Western Balkans region and civil society organizations seized the opportunity to exchange ideas with their European counterparts, fostering a spirit of cooperation and solidarity.

The “Bridging the Gap” conference successfully bridged the divide between Members of Parliament, civil society representatives, and young leaders from the Western Balkans and the European Union. By promoting dialogue, fostering cooperation, and prioritizing youth engagement, the event showcased the immense potential for regional collaboration and the significant role of young people in shaping the future. It is through such platforms that the Western Balkans can continue to progress towards a more prosperous and inclusive future.