The EU promises that there will be no cuts to the Union's peace programme.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Brussels -- 12/02/13
Johannes Hahn, EU commissioner for regional policy, said lessons learned in Northern Ireland can be used to bring peace to the Balkans. [AFP]
Experiences of EU peace programmes in Northern Ireland can be used to help resolve lingering problems in Southeast Europe, EU commissioner for regional policy Johannes Hahn told SETimes.
"Since 1995, the EU has provided 1.3 billion euros to projects in Northern Ireland and the border region aimed at cementing the peace process that became the Belfast Agreement in 1998," Hahn said.
"Of course, there is still work to be done. What I want to say is that no progmamme can be duplicated on some other area because of the different structures of society. But there are always some segments that we can use from this experience in solving problems on some other area, such as the Balkans."
Hahn's office recently hosted the conference "Bringing Divided Communities Together" in Brussels. The office also funds the EU Peace Programme.
Hahn said that the financial support of such projects is important. Even though EU is facing a financial crisis, Hahn said that there will be no cuts in this part of the EU's budget.
"These projects are simply a must because there is still a lot work to be done. Economic, territorial and social cohesion. That is something that every EU programme has, no matter what area. Those things have shown applicable when it comes to resolving ethnic and social tension," Hahn said.
Genc Goranci, co-ordinator of the Nansen Dialogue Centre from Sarajevo, an NGO that promotes nationwide reconciliation and tolerance in BiH and the region, said that the reconciliation process should start from the local level.
"Of course, there must be some support from the institutional level. But the best recipe for reconciliation on the basics what the data from the field are telling is to have the local aproach," Goranci told SETimes. "We have done numerous projects in Srebrenica and Bratunac and it was shown that two diferent ethnic groups, Serbs and Bosniaks, can work together in some fields, such as education for example."
Branko Todorovic, head of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of Republika Srpska, thinks that the problem facing the Balkans are significant.
"It is very easy to raise tensions in the Balkans. It takes just one word. Unfortunately, after that it is very difficult to repair the condition. Therefore, I think it takes a long time for a true reconciliation, because in the last 10 years many wrong words had spoken," Todorovic told SETimes.