Macedonia, Greek youth NGOs co-operate against prejudices

01/09/2014

Initial meetings of youth organisations result in agreements for joint projects.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Struga -- 01/09/14

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Greek and Macedonian youth NGOs meet in Struga to forge alliances and work on joint projects. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]

Youth NGOs from Greece and Macedonia are creating joint projects to reduce prejudice and promote tolerance.

Representatives of 20 NGOs met in Struga as part of Contact for the Common Future, organised by the Youth Alliance from Krushevo, the UNESCO Youth Club from Thessaloniki and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

The initiative to establish co-operation started cautiously, according to Metodija Stojceski, executive director of the Youth Alliance in Krushevo.

"But we got the opposite result of cautious because there was great desire for co-operation," Stojceski told SETimes.

Stojceski said the main goal was to connect the civil societies of each country.

"Prior to this, we had no contact even with the organisation from Lerin, which is only 70 kilometres across the border," he said.

Stojceski said the initial meeting resulted in agreement to pursue 11 joint projects.

"Politics is one thing but reality is something else, and the latter states we are very close and must co-operate," Stojceski said.

Darios Karpatakis of the Youth UNESCO club in Thessaloniki said he visited Macedonia for the first time, and realised that both countries have many things in common.

"Stereotypes exist among the older people, but not among the youth. We will remain in contact with our friends from Macedonia to ensure what we created not does not remain only 10 days of gathering together, but a reality that will continue in the future," Karpatakis told SETimes.

The participants said the main problem they face is unemployment and seek joint, specific solutions to it.

"We discussed how to use the closeness of the border to establish contacts from which even closer co-operation would result in the future and bypass the existing political problems," Sunai Sabrioski, representative of the student magazine Izlez in Skopje, told SETimes.

Those who attended the meeting are workıng on specifıc plans to implement in the future, said Blaze Malseski of the Reactor Research in Action, an NGO in Skopje.

"If the two countries face youth unemployment, they should try to solve it together," Malseski told SETimes. "They may focus on the border, because many NGOs can send volunteers to the other side."

Greeks have had prejudices about co-operation between the two countries, said Maria Atanatsiki, representative of the youth UNESCO club in Thesaloniki.

"But there is room for co-operation because we are very similar, and the available resources are not sufficiently used," Atanatsiki told SETimes.

Athanatsiki also said the media affects attitudes about developing co-operation because news reports often promote the negative as opposed to the positive about the neighbouring nations.

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"It would be nice if they support such projects," she said.

The Greek youth representatives said they are ready to assist youth in Macedonia regarding educational and employment opportunities the EU offers.

"Greece is much more developed and that is why many more positive examples can be drawn from it. We can assist in the technical part because we are more experienced, and we can also assist with regard to applying for EU funds," Atanatsiki said.

What can civil society do to further co-operation between Greece and Macedonia? Share your opinion in the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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