The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD) held a three day launch event beginning on December 3 for the second round of the Professional Work Exchange for Enhanced Policy Dialogue Program, which will take place between January and March 2015. This program, supported by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, exemplifies an innovative approach to facilitating cross-border collaboration through a series of policy work exchanges between mid-career professionals from civil society organizations in Kosovo and Serbia. It also deepens existing partnerships and forges new cooperation between organizations working on similar themes.
Upcoming dialogues will address a range of themes, including security and policing, visa liberalization, municipal monitoring, local economic development, regulatory frameworks, cultural policy, independent media, and environmental advocacy. Several exchanges will also address the progress and implementation of the Brussels-facilitated negotiations and the integration of North Kosovo.
"The reconciliation process between Serbia and Kosovo is well under way. It has a very long road to travel and there will be fits and starts along the way,” said Ivan Vejvoda, senior vice president of programs. “This project... is key to civil society engagement in supporting and furthering this process toward good neighbourly relations, finding solutions to concrete policy issues on the ground, and most importantly re-building trust among the communities."
The launch event included presentations on the substantive results of the pilot exchanges and working sessions that were moderated by Maja Nenadovic and dedicated to outlining goals and activities of the upcoming exchanges. The 36 participants identified the challenges and opportunities for civil society actors aspiring to inform, influence and advocate policies in Kosovo and Serbia. Jasna Hajder, senior political officer at the British Embassy in Belgrade, was in attendance, and the closing dinner brought participants together with members of Serbian civil society, including Biljana Dakic, Srdjan Djurovic, Igor Bandovic, Tanja Maksic, and Milos Kovacevic.
Throughout 2015, 19 organizations will participate in 10 different exchanges—an expansion from the pilot exchange both in number and in geographic scope with organizations from Mitrovica, Prishtina, Nis, Subotica and Belgrade represented. It is also important to note that six of the upcoming exchanges represent the first instance of cooperation between the organizations involved thanks to the extensive outreach efforts by BTD staff.