The Balkan Trafik Festival is a multi-artistic festival defined as a platform for cultural diplomacy. It is the meeting between representatives from South-Eastern European countries and Brussels as a multicultural European capital. “Balkan Trafik” is indeed a traffic, a traffic in cultures and experiences offering keys for integration, communication, sharing and openness to others.
The Festival highlighted the diversity of the culture of the Balkans, through a wide range of artistic disciplines and 6 international debates on topics relevant for Interreg IPA programmes with stakeholders from the Western Balkans and a sample of key opinion leaders, experts, and guests from the EU and the Western Balkans.
The overall objective of the debates was to explain the rationale of European Territorial Cooperation and enlargement policies and the positive impact of EU actions with the candidate and potential candidate countries from the Western Balkans. Furthermore, these debates framed some sharing of experiences between Western Balkans and the EU. In this perspective, common values like inclusion, solidarity, multilateralism, and global partnership will be embodied through culture, to help the audience to overcome the often, wrong preconceptions concerning the Balkan countries.
On 21 April 2021 European Commission-DG REGIO and DG NEAR with ‘1001 valises/Balkan Trafik Festival’ organized ‘EU4Balkans debate’. Debates were around 6 topics (Together with our diversities, Freedom of Expression, Environment, Inclusion, Youth and Young Activism) which cover the political priorities of the Commission and the general objectives of sector-specific regulations for the 2021-27 cohesion policy. For a full day, the festival connected Brussels, Istanbul, Zagreb, Belgrade, Skopje, Tirana, Pristina, Bucharest, Sarajevo, and Podgorica through their European, regional, state, governmental, municipal, and NGO representatives, on topics relevant for Interreg IPA programmes.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these debates took place in a hybrid form, combining the physical presence of some participants in Brussels with the digital presence of guests/stakeholders from the Western Balkans via video conferencing.
As an introduction in debate ‘Environment’, a short video testimonial of our project ‘WetlandRestore – Restoration of Wetlands in Middle Danube’ was shown. Ms Mirjana Bartula, Project Manager from Nature Conservation Movement of Sremska Mitrovica, participated in the debate and shared experience about protecting the environment and preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity. She pointed out that the ecosystem shared by the countries without cross-border cooperation cannot have efficient and sustainable results.
Ms Jelena Plavetić, Head of Department in the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds, participated in the debate on the topic of inclusion in Western Balkan countries. As the representative of Managing Authority for two Interreg IPA CBC Programmes, she shared experience of the programme and examples of projects dealing with social and cultural inclusion.