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Regional cooperation: the search for chemistry among individuals, exchange of ideas and optimism

On Saturday, a panel on “Cultural Cooperation in the Western Balkans Region – Perspectives and Achievements” was held at the Center for Cultural Decontamination in Belgrade. The panel brought together regional experts in cultural management: professor Milena Dragicevic Sesic (Faculty of Dramatic Arts, University of Arts in Belgrade), Vladimir Coric (OKC “Abrasevic”, Mostar), Milica Pekic (Newsstand / COOPERATIVE Regional Culture Platform), Genc Permeti (Professor, Academy of Arts, Tirana), and the interview was moderated by Ana Pejović, cultural manager.

The interview was held in English as part of a regional youth cultural cooperation project organized by “Creative Mentoring” together with OKC “Abrashevic” and “RRUga Me Pisha”, with the support of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO). The panel was also part of the first seminar within this project, which brought together 30 young people interested in culture, art and media who will work on the development of joint projects and initiatives over the next 5 months, with the support of mentors from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia. and Albania.

The interview began with the question of how we could define the term region, to which the participants had different answers, resulting from their daily professional experience. Milica Pekic emphasized that the term region often refers to countries that were part of Yugoslavia, while Professor Sesic said that she sees the entire Balkans as a region and that excluding Albania, Turkey and Greece from this concept can only hurt us. Professor Sesic added that of all the creative and artistic industries, film currently plays the most important role in connecting and networking the region.

Genc Permeti, a professor at the Tirana Academy of Arts, also addressed systemic problems that hamper better networking in the region. He emphasized that the regional exchange at the faculties was difficult and described the problem with the example of the faculties where he works, where the teaching is held in Albanian, and it is impossible for students who do not speak Albanian to participate in the exchange.

Genc also referred to situations in which there is cooperation between NGOs in the region, which may be either planned due to project finances, or organic, natural, which he considers better and necessary for the development of cooperation in the region. Organic collaboration requires chemistry among individuals, the exchange of good ideas and optimism.

Vladimir from OKR Abrašević pointed out another systemic obstacle to regional cooperation, namely the transport infrastructure of some countries, joking that it was easier to get from Sarajevo to Tokyo than from Sarajevo to Belgrade.

He went on to say that it was important to work on chemistry and local initiatives, and like Milica Pekic, he emphasized that the term region generally means only the countries that belonged to Yugoslavia, which is not a good understanding.

Professor Sesic added that one of the problems facing the region, seen as an obstacle to cultural cooperation, is the fact that culture identifies with language and that language is considered a pillar of national identity. She praised the Declaration on a Common Language, to which she is a signatory, which is a step towards the integration of regions and regional cultures.

If there are so many different obstacles to cooperation, but understanding the concept of region, how can we overcome them?

Professors Sesic and Milica Pekic emphasized that we needed new initiatives, lobbying, as well as developing new types of civil sector cooperation with both the private and public sectors.

Milica Pekic spoke about the importance of developing an international fund that could foster regional cooperation, due to the fact that such cooperation is financially demanding. She added that independent initiatives and non-governmental organizations face the problem of independence in their work, since regional cooperation grants are often not well designed and developed and do not respond to the needs of the region. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a regional independent fund where people using the resources themselves will design donation programs, and these donations will more closely meet the real needs of professionals.

Milica Pekic also spoke about the patience that is important in the development of regional co-operation and that is necessary to bring about changes in cultural work, and cited as an example that organizations in Croatia have been lobbying for 7 years to launch a fund for alternative initiatives.

Vladimir Coric stressed that the problem of regional cooperation also affects young people, who, as he emphasized in Mostar, are confused. He added that Bosnia and Herzegovina is “the most complicated country in the world, and that Mostar is the most complicated city” because it is the victim of an unfinished war, which has influenced the growth of young people. He added that the enthusiasm and energy of young people were at a higher level in the early 2000s than they are now.

Vladimir Coric stressed that the problem of regional cooperation also affects young people, who, as he emphasized in Mostar, are confused. He added that Bosnia and Herzegovina is “the most complicated country in the world, and that Mostar is the most complicated city” because it is the victim of an unfinished war, which has influenced the growth of young people. He added that the enthusiasm and energy of young people were at a higher level in the early 2000s than they are now. He believes that the rise of populism, the geopolitical situation and the crisis that the European Union is going through have influenced their decline in optimism, and therefore considers it more important than ever that the region unite and rethink regional cooperation.

“We are always waiting for someone else to take the initiative, and now is the right time to do something on our own, to address topics such as entrepreneurship and fundraising models. We need more knowledge in these areas, as well as creativity, to come up with new ways to raise money and strengthen cooperation, ”Vladimir said.

The interview ended with a discussion of young people and reflection on the question of whether we need a new narrative through which to speak to young people about cultural cooperation.

Professor Sesic concluded that we needed new narratives, but also to look to the past to recreate and rethink new forms of cooperation, and Milica Pekic added that public infrastructures, empowerment through joint initiatives and cooperation are what we should return to. because as individuals we will never be able to accomplish what we can if we strive together!

Photographs: Igor Kokar