Greece, North Macedonia and the way forward. Study exchange programme 30 August-1 September 2019

Liberal Youth Dialogue in the Balkans 2019

Program Description

The Macedonian name-dispute was mainly a dispute of identities. For almost 30 years, Greece and the then “Republic of Macedonia” had frozen their relations, wasting opportunities for collaboration and development, unable to overcome certain political (Cold-War) narratives. The Agreement signed in 2018 in the Prespes Lake district, celebrated a new era for the Balkans and Europe.
For the first time, both national governments had the decisiveness to solve the problem on a sound and firm basis. By learning from past mistakes, the two countries and their peoples can eventually walk together towards a better, joint future. For Greece, this is a good time to lead the Western Balkans to a new partnership and assist them consolidate the Euro-Atlantic values; for North Macedonia it is a golden opportunity to advance its economy, stability and security joining the EU and NATO.
However, nationalist elements on both sides still oppose the historical agreement. The most current developments once again prove how fragile the future could be, if illiberal voices are let to dominate the national political discourse. The newly elected right-wing government in Athens (New Democracy party) has openly rejected the milestone agreement. The nationalistic
VMRO party in Skopje takes advantage of this moment in order to revitalise its political positions, promote nationalistic claims, and spread distrust in the current government that is led by a coalition of the Social- Democrats and Liberals.
Amid these political mal-developments, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has accepted the invitation of liberals in both countries to support a youth-exchange study programme that will bring together young liberals and scholars from Greece and North Macedonia. Together, they will discuss the new, pro-liberal path forward for the two countries and the enormous possibilities for societies and economies. They will search for means to promote bilateral dialogue, mutual understanding and counter conservative-nationalistic arguments.
In a joint exchange and learning format, the participants will not only learn about each other’s perspective and get clear views of the “other”, but they will also formulate a joint vision for the future of their countries in a union of shared values. This vision and its underlying ideas are to be promoted and debated in their respective networks with the aim for the further consolidation of the liberal approach for a prosperous and united future.

Activities:
A three-day exchange programme for ten participants from Greece and ten participants from North Macedonia.

Dates:
30 August – 1 September 2019

Organizers:

Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (Athens and Sofia)

Young Liberals Greece

Liberal Democratic Party-Youth

Objective:
A dialogue, based on liberal policy approaches for closer and sustainable cooperation between Greece and North Macedonia, has been initiated among youth in the two countries.

Goals:
1) The participants improve their understanding of the fundamental European values and the European integration.
2) The participants discuss the opportunities for cross-border cooperation between Greece and North Macedonia and their impact on the societies and economies of the two countries.
3) The participants debate the nationalist agenda in both countries and develop approaches to oppose it.
4) The participants identify a set of underlying areas for long-lasting cooperation between the two countries and formulate political approaches that they perceive as a starting point for this cooperation
5) The participants discuss and promote the areas of cooperation and the formulated policy approaches within their home-country networks. They propose a campaign for the enhancement of bilateral relations.

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