France, Western Balkans and European Union: Boosting Societal Cooperation

13 July 2021. – A round table, “France, the Western Balkans and the European Union: Boosting Societal Cooperation,” was held today at the premises of the French Institute in Serbia. Representatives of the civil society of the Western Balkan region and representatives of the civil society of France, experts, and other interested parties attended the round table.

France is increasing its interest in the Western Balkans, primarily in politics and economy. The goal of the event was to intensify France’s cooperation with the region in culture and other social areas.

“Strengthening the ties between civil society organisations is very important for building good future relations between the France and this region”, said Jean-Louis Falconi, Ambassador of France. “France desires to strengthen its role in the region and it is committed to the enlargement policy”. Therefore, civil society cooperation is very significant to us. We are happy to listen to their recommendations on maximising cooperation, all with the aim of more active involvement when it comes to supporting the enlargement policy and regional stability”, said Falconi.

“Civil society of Serbia is not sufficiently well connected with the civil society of France, which is why we recognised the need to strengthen that cooperation. Our survey shows that, on a scale of 1 to 5, we get a score of 2.8% when it comes to how Serbian civil society evaluates cooperation with France”, said CEP’s Programme Director, Milena Lazarevic.

The panel discussion was divided into three sub-panels, each of which focused on one topic:

  1. The Role of Civil Sector in Boosting Cooperation
  2. Opportunities for Young People Arising from Enhanced Cooperation
  3. Cultural Ties as the Foundation of Societal Cooperation

In each panel, experts in their fields, both from the region and from France, presented their views.

The aim of this discussion was to analyse civic, cultural and youth cooperation. The result of these deliberations will be summarised in a policy paper published ahead of the French Presidency of the Council and presented in Paris.

Florent Marciacq, Deputy Secretary General of the Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe, emphasised the importance of this event, especially the fact that it was held in French.

One of the participants in the event was Alain Lamassoure, a former member of the European Parliament and one of the authors of the Treaty of Lisbon. Lamassoure noted that the Balkans had separated from Western Europe for over 500 years. “For centuries, we lived apart from each other”, he said. However, we all have the ghosts from the past – we must overcome them. We cannot change the past, but the future depends solely on us”, said Lamassoure.

This event is jointly organised by Euro Creative, the Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (CFA/OFZ) and European Policy Centre (CEP), with the support of the French Embassy as a part of the initiative building on the French Strategy on the Western Balkan.