On the 19th and 20th of September the third debate ‘Through another point of view’ of the SMUG EU project was held in Macedonia.
On the 18th, the delegations from 9 countries gathered in the town of Krushevo. The next day the official program began. After the initial greetings held by Kosta Mickoski – main responsable person in department for local economic development in Krushevo and vice president of LAG PRIZAG Dragutin Hendelja, the project and agenda were shortly presented. A speech was held on the theme of Macedonian EU accession process by Marina Tosheska, vice president of LAG AGRO LIDER.
Then, the most interesting part came, the debate ‘Let your voice be heard’: EU membership – yes or no?
Participants were divided into 3 groups:
- Group – biggest group with Macedonians and Serbians who were debating on the EU membership – YES or NO. Both the YES and NO subgroup gave statements on the reasons why their country should or should not join the EU.
The main statements for YES included open borders, open market for goods, availability of EU funds, possibilities for young people to go and study abroad and better development of infrastructure.
The main statements for NO included imposed laws (for example, forcing Macedonia to change its name), then local population leaving the country because of open borders, inappropriate education, unfair competition in the EU, imposing standards that have to be fulfilled in order to join the EU, high quality staff leaving the country, inequality of standards (wages, pensions) that cannot follow the high living standards (wages stay the same, but prices go up).
- Group (Eurocritics) was given the factors that cause euroscepticism which were gathered on the previous debates. Their task was to sort them by relevance. These are the most relevant ones:
Lack of knowledge about the EU (policies and institutions).
Inequality in EU countries (such as difference in living standards, wages, distribution of funds…). All citizens in the EU should have unique standards and rights.
Media – distributing too much negative information instead of giving positive examples concerning the EU.
Politics – bad propaganda of the government and high officials.
Populist movement – bad propaganda by lobbies against the EU.
Migrant crisis – fear of terrorist attacks. Because of the refugees, people do not feel safe in their homes. Also there is the fear of terrorist attacks.
Economic crisis – the bad crisis that struck 2008. is still going on in some countries. There are some doubts that the EU should have been prepared with instruments for such crisis.
Lack of solidarity in times of crisis – between the EU institutions, as well as people (for example, lack of solidarity from some countries in the migrant crisis). People are losing the sense of belonging, then.
3. Group (Eurooptimists) were given the task to figure out what makes an EU citizen feel like being part of the EU. The key factors to EU optimism are as follows:
The sense of unity in culture – that keeps us together
The sense of peace and prosperity in EU
Growing together economically (using every country’s gifts to produce unique goods)
Youth’s view – living safely with freedom of speech, look forward – not back
Gathering on events where we mingle and get to know each other (education about different cultures, religions…)
A broader sense of our own culture since we strive to preserve it in the EU
Untill now we focused on the question: What can the EU do for us? But this group came with another task: What can we give for the EU?
After these rich debates, a round table was held with personal speeches on the EU theme and results of the day were summed up. Later in the evening a visit around Krushevo was organized and participants saw potential for EU funding in this area.
On the second day presentations of associations that serve as a positive example were held: Centre of education and development, Youth initiative for regional development, Academic organization Krushevo and Youth council Krushevo. After that a final discussion was held with closing words and press conference. In the meantime, people participated in a small ‘referendum’ where they had to vote FOR or AGAINST their country joining the EU (if again they were to choose for their country). As expected, the FOR statement won with 44 votes while the AGAINST had only 12 votes.
The event shifted later to Ohrid. Presented were projects of the city that are in close EU relationship, financed by the INTERREG – IPA CBC programme for cooperation between Greece and Macedonia, COSME, Erasmus and other European programmes.
The event ended with a visit through Ohrid and evening dinner where all participants socialized and exchanged their cultural aspects.
Also, a fruitful project management meeting was held on the second day where ideas were set for the upcoming event in Slovenia.