The Regional Youth Cooperation Office for the Western Balkans (RYCO): an organization modelled on the Franco-German Youth Office (17.05.18)

The EU-Western Balkans Summit is to be held on 17 May in Sofia in the presence of Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic. It aims to provide new momentum to relations between the EU and the Western Balkans.

This summit is an opportunity to review the creation of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) supported by France and Germany as well as the Franco-German Youth Office.

Creating synergies between young people from all corners of the region

The RYCO was created by the 6 heads of government in the Western Balkans, in 2016, within the framework of the Berlin Process. This organization is dedicated to bolstering the links between young people in the region and promoting their mobility and employability.

The Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO) has made a decisive contribution to this project by sharing its best practices and feedback on the issue of intercultural exchanges between young people and the reconciliation process within civil society.

The RYCO has been up and running since September 2017 and its regional office is based in Tirana. The main team of 10 people is composed of citizens from around the region and is assisted by satellite offices in Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo and Skopje.

Successful first call for projects

A first call for projects aiming to create regional synergies was launched by the RYCO in October 2017 focusing on two priority themes: intercultural dialogue and active participation and inclusive society. Over 400 projects from around 1,300 NGOs were submitted. Some 35 projects were selected each involving at least three NGOs from three different countries. A total of €900,000 has been allocated to finance these 35 initial projects.

The projects will help promote:

  • A spirit of intercultural learning, moving beyond stereotypes, mediation on issues of the past, interethnic tolerance, fight against hate speech and exclusion, etc.
  • A spirit of developing decision-making, initiative and implementation capacities, sensitivity to environmental issues and job creation, etc.
  • They will above all enhance mobility and intra-regional interactivity for young people who are a fundamental asset for this region.

Support from the European Commission and France

The European Commission has already announced its commitment to the RYCO which is sees as a key tool for young people and reconciliation in the Western Balkans. This year, it will provide a sum of €500,000 to the Office and provide assistance to bolster its management capabilities.

France is also currently developing a “Balkan Lab” project with the RYCO with the support of the Institut Français. The project aims to promote the emergence of young leaders of innovative projects in the fields of the environment, civil society, education and citizenship, digital democracy, sport and gender equality.

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