Mission 3 of our Turning commitment to practice programme for the EU macro-regions brought us to Zagreb to continue our discussion with stakeholders of the Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR) and even beyond.

We had two introductory presentations, one by Gaby Hagmüller, Programme Manager Cross-border Cooperation, European Commission DG Regional and Urban Policy who spoke about the usefulness and value-added nature of civil society organisations in cross-border and macro-regional activities.

Professor Gojko Bezovan, President of our host organisation, the Centre for Development of Non-Profit Organisations (CERANEO), explained why European cooperation is important for Croatian CSOs.

During the discussion a special contribution was made by Danko Relic, a Croatian member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) who highlighted the importance of the recently launched Enlargement Candidate Members’ Initiative of the EESC making it the first EU institution to offer the candidate countries a specific opportunity for involvement and participation.

The more than 50 participants, mostly young people, continued the work in three working groups:

Group 1: Youth participation in macro-regional strategies

Group 2: EU Enlargement: an instrument to promote European integration

Group 3: My vision of a well-functioning macro-regional civil network

Based on our intensive work here are four recommendations:

  1. PROACTIVITY: Involving young people opens vistas for the renewal of EU macro-regional strategies but it requires a proactive attitude from all sides. Enthousiasm and openness is a good starting point but it should be coupled with continued engagement. This is also a learning process.

  2. PARTNERSHIP: EU enlargement is closely linked to EU integration. It is a challenging task at a time when the current 27 Member States face unexpected developments. This should not be an obstacle not to address EU enlargement. Continuous postponement is not the answer. However EU enlargement should be transparent, local CSOs should be integrated into the process with their capacity to make the notion of active citizenship a reality.

  3. OWNERSHIP & TRUST: EU macro-regional strategies have an unused capacity to demonstarte how EU policies can influence positively our everyday life making citizens and their organisations part of the policy shaping process. It increases the feeling of belonging. Cross-border activities are good examples of overcoming mistrust and biased attitudes.
  4. BOTTOM-UP: Bringing together CSOs from the four macro-regions is an innovative idea. The proposed network could function as a pressure group on national, regional and EU levels. Special attention should be paid to the specific needs and situations of CSOs in the macro-regions.

The message of the meeting was forwarded to the participants of the 9th Annual EUSAIR Forum held in Sibenik, Croatia on 15-16 May 2024.

The Zagreb meeting was followed by a public street action on Trg Krešimira Ćosića focusing on the upcoming EP elections and asking local passer-byers to indetify their ideal EP candidate.

Special thanks to CERANEO and its staff for their dedicated work to make this event a success.