Youth

Young people are the drivers of change. That’s why investing in youth is at the heart of EU cooperation with its Western Balkan partners.

The EU is behind many initiatives that aim to improve the lives and future opportunities of young people.

Ultimately, the goal is to contribute to making the region an attractive and inclusive place for young people to live, work and realise their ambitions.

What are the challenges?

Across the Western Balkans, young people face many challenges, from high levels of unemployment and a lack of decent jobs, to social exclusion and discrimination of groups on the margins.

  • Many young skilled workers are motivated to seek job opportunities outside the region. The 2020 Balkan Barometer survey revealed that 71% of Western Balkan youth would consider going to work abroad. The main concerns cited by young people are ‘being unemployed’, ‘being poor’, and ‘corruption’.
  • A widespread lack of trust in politics means that many youngsters feel alienated from political processes and that their voice is unheard. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with young people amongst the hardest hit groups, will only exacerbate these issues.
  • Often young people struggle to find work because their skills and qualifications do not match the demands of the labour market.

Education and training systems in the Western Balkans need to modernise to address persistent youth unemployment, close the skills gap, and harness all the talent in the region.

How is the EU responding

The younger generations are an important focus of EU work in the region. In cooperation with Western Balkan partners, the EU invests in youth through programmes in many areas – education and vocational training, entrepreneurship, culture, research, inclusion, cooperation and reconciliation, civic activism, and all sorts of exchange programmes for learning and personal development.

EU support has already helped many young Western Balkan entrepreneurs to start, manage and grow their own business. Thousands of students have gained new skills by training, studying or volunteering abroad. Many young artists have taken up opportunities to develop their creative projects and reach new audiences.

The EU also encourages active participation of young people – to get involved in policy-making and shaping and grassroots activism, and take the future into their own hands!

'+30,000 student and staff exchanges between the Western Balkans and the EU

'+300 scholarships for student masters studies

Ongoing support

The Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans sets the blueprint moving forward. This substantial investment package offer many opportunities for young people in areas such as:

The Young European Ambassadors network in the Western Balkans also offers inspiring examples of young people leading change and stepping up to participate.

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