AEBR’s Info Centre in the Balkans organised and participated in various events in the last months to raise awareness on an array of topics relevant to local and regional authorities, particularly in border regions.
AEBR Info Centre in the Balkans was involved in a joint venture between the Interreg Sweden – Norway Joint Technical Secretariat, and the Association of the European Border Regions (AEBR), AEBR Balkans and the CESCI Balkans to organise a study visit of members of the NO-SE Joint Secretariat to the Republic of Serbia. 24 political representatives plus eight administrative officers from Västra Götaland, Värmland, Dalarna, Hedmark, Akershus and Østfold regions, undertook a joint study trip to Belgrade, the Municipality of Bela Palanka, Pirot at the Serbian-Bulgarian border and Sofia (Euroregion Nisava) from 30 October to 2 November 2019. Within the framework of the study trip, the Seminar European, Serbian, Bulgarian and Scandinavian perspectives on European Territorial Cooperation 2021 – 2027 took place in Belgrade on 31 October. On 1 November participants visited cross-border projects at the Serbian-Bulgarian border in Euroregion Nisava.
The delegation also visited the Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade. Ambassador Jørn Gjelstad welcomed them on occasion of the Seminar on 31 October 2019 organized by the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR). Ambassador Gjelstad pointed out that the Nordic cooperation model played a crucial role in the development of prosperity and rule of law in Norway and in the Nordic countries. “Nordic participation in the Interreg models has further contributed to a strengthening of the Nordic cooperation, cooperation with EU countries and with the countries along the EU’s external borders”, he said.
Ms Ana Nikolov, director of AEBR Info Centre in the Balkans, spoke at the conference Promoting the Participation of National Minorities as a Pathway to the Integration of Diverse Societies organised by the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Lund, Sweden, on 14 November 2019. This conference marked the 20th anniversary of the Lund Recommendations on the Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life. Ms Nikolov contributed to the panel discussion on “Effective participation in social and economic life: the role of national minorities in regional development”, where she brought the perspective of border regions, highlighting that these are areas with the highest density of minorities. As such, “border regions are places where the participation of minorities in the political, economic and social life is the most effective, [where] the national minorities have a very strong connections with motherland [and] are `bridge builders´ between two countries in every area of life” emphasised Ms Nikolov.
With regard to projects, AEBR Info Centre is involved in the initiative AMiD, the very first project addressing migrants with disabilities. The many stakeholders involved have developed a tool to support the reception and integration in the EU of asylum seekers and migrants with disabilities. Funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), the project aims at helping all people who could potentially be involved and interact with applicants during the interview procedure for international protection. On 5 November 2019 Ms Nikolov participated at the Final Conference of the project in Brussels organised by the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD). The conference offered a platform to explore the main project results achieved, raise knowledge of Non-Governmental Organisations and local authorities in order to meet the needs of migrants with disabilities arriving in Europe more successfully and discuss the most important trends, needs and challenges on the topic ‘disability & migration’.
Ms Nikolov and the current trainee at AEBR Info Centre in the Balkans, Lara Taverna, previous Interreg Volunteer, have also organised an info day on Interreg Volunteer Youth in Kikinda on 16 December 2019 to invite young people from the Balkans to engage in territorial cooperation.
Furthermore, Ms Nikolov attended recently various events to follow closely regional developments. On 19 February 2020, Ms Nikolov attended the panel on “Current State of Turkey’s Political and Civic Rights” at the European Parliament organised by Vocal Europe in cooperation with the European Parliament. Hosted by MEP Costas Mavrides, the panel included Members of the European Parliament from different political groups. More information on the event are available here. In the framework of the week of macro-regional strategies organised by the European Commission last February, Ms Nikolov also attended a panel discussion on “The Enlargement Perspective of the Western Balkans and the Role of the Regions – What is the contribution of macro-regional strategies?”.
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