Skopje, North Macedonia – How does the current economic situation in the Western Balkans influence and contribute to the region’s integrative process? How is the evolution of local government facilitating the path towards European integration within its respective regions? What key challenges do the Western Balkans face in their integrative process? What changes to the EU’s approach to the Western Balkans could occur after the upcoming 2024 elections?

From the 16th to the 19th of November, YEPP was invited to Skopje to discuss these key issues during its Council Meeting ‘Unifying the Future: Next-Gen Meets Western Balkans’. The Council Meeting was hosted by the Young Forces Union of VMRO-DPMNE, North Macedonia, and welcomed over 50 delegates from our 64 member organizations.

Starting on Thursday and extending until Sunday morning, delegates had the opportunity to attend multiple discussion panels, workshops, and learn from the experience of key political figures. They also visited the Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia, where they could draw on the experience of the President of the Foreign Affairs Committee and of different MPs about the recent history of North Macedonia and the challenges it faces in its path towards EU Integration.

In a workshop on the topic of political communication, after presentations from Stefan Andonovski and Viktorija Trajkov, respectively the International Secretary and Foreign Policy Advisor of VMRO-DPMNE, delegates gathered in groups to discuss the best ways to organize a political campaign. Later, they presented their communication approach, explaining the means they would use to communicate the specific topic they were given. Subsequently, they participated in a simulation of a House of Commons debate, focusing on Europe’s political positioning towards China. Delegates attended a panel on ‘The Economic Situation in the Western Balkans and its role in the Integrative Process of the Region’, addressed by MP Bojan Stojanoski and Maja Vojnovikj, former Vice-Governor of the National Bank. The focal point was the economic impact of advancing the region’s integrative efforts. Moreover, a keynote speech from the VP of VMRO-DPMNE and former YEPP delegate Timco Mucunski focused on the opportunities and challenges of local governments in aligning with the process of European integration.

In addition to these activities, delegates discussed various resolutions concerning key political topics, such as the need to strengthen counter-terrorism efforts, to intensify efforts towards a European vocational and practical education area, and to provide strategic support for countries at the EU borders in response to the migration crisis. An unanimously approved resolution on the Catalan amnesty stood out, highlighting the severe situation Spain is facing. Furthermore, a very insightful discussion about the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the necessary approach to ensure peace, led to a Joint Statement, merging the inputs of our members JSD and MUF. Voted unanimously in favour, the Joint Statement marks YEPP’s unwavering support for Israel and its commitment to peace in the region. All resolutions can be accessed here.

As a final note, summing up all the insights gathered in Skopje, the Council Meeting unanimously supported a Letter of Intent put forward by the Board. In a process led by First Vice-President Sophia Kircher YEPP thus reiterates its firm commitment to the Integration of the Western Balkans in the EU.

YEPP is very grateful to the the Youth Forces Union of VMRO-DPMNE for their invitation and exceptional organization, looking forward to future collaborations.