21 young political and community leaders who have graduated the Schools of Political Studies in Bulgaria, Tunisia and Morocco have successfully concluded their participation in the third Summer Academy for Strengthening Democracy in the Euro-Med Region, dedicated to democracy and education.
“Bulgaria will remain a firm supporter of the democratic dreams of people as they endeavor to change, democratize and open their societies!”, said at the opening of the forum the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria H.E. Daniel Mitov. He placed two main focuses in the development of the Mediterranean region. The first was the importance of dialogue and the second was the development of democratic institutions based on principles. That thesis was also supported by Ambassador Hatem Atallah, Executive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation. While analyzing the challenges facing the Mediterranean region, he focused on the radicalization of young people and the need for long-term solutions to problems such as migration and the search of a new identity among young European population. As a possible “cure” for the refugee and migrant crisis he considered education, which to develop common shared values and the promotion of open spaces for dialogue. Ambassador Atallah also presented data from the latest report of the Anna Lindh Foundation according to which young people from both shores of the Mediterranean had an increasing desire to know more about each other, but are faced with phenomena such as xenophobia and intolerance. The President of the Executive Committee of the North-South Center to the Council of Europe, Jean-Marie Heydt also drew the attention to education as the main engine for dialogue. Mr. Heydt gave a lecture on the role of NGOs and non-formal education to improve democracy in the Euro-med region.
During her lecture the Deputy Secretary General of the Union for Mediterranean Ambassador Delphine Borione stressed on the need for the establishment of stability, sustainable development and inclusive societies in the region. She paid special attention to gender equality as a factor for stability. The theme of women was continued by MEP Mariya Gabriel and the Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights Ms. Amina Bouayach. She called for more access of women to political and social life in countries such as Morocco and Tunisia, as well as for strengthening the measures giving access of women to education. MEP Mariya Gabriel greeted the Bulgarian School of Politics for the organization of the third Summer Academy and said that by implementing such projects that promote women’s participation in politics and the process of decision-making in Morocco, train young leaders and support the democracy in Tunisia, the BSoP contributed greatly to strengthening the values of freedom, equality and the rule of law in the Mediterranean region.
The problems of young people were also emphasis in the program of the Summer Academy. Migration, career development and civic participation of the younger generation were topics of the lectures of the Political Party Program Director for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Iraq Mr. Ognyan Boyadzhiev and Mr. Saudi Yassin, a researcher at the Moroccan organization “Rabita Mohammedia of Ulemas.” They concentrated on the reasons for the involvement of young people among the ranks of the Islamic State.
Lectures on the access of young people to the educational system were given by the arabist Mrs. Mariana Malinova and the MP of the Moroccan Parliament Mr. Samir Belfkih.
Panels dedicated to the development of skills such as conflict resolution and participation in TV debates were part of the program as well. The participants had the opportunity to participate in a number of simulations.
Within the academy the participants developed the final product, which will be presented during the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg in November 2016. They were divided into two groups – representatives of the EU and the Southern Mediterranean. Each group had to do a SWOT analysis of the relationship between education and democracy in the region, to show the deficits of democracy and to propose measures to address them through the prism of education.
The participants in the Summer Academy visited the National Assembly, where they met with MP`s who are alumni of the Bulgarian School of Politics. They had meetings with the Mayor of Sofia Mrs. Yordanka Fandakova and the Head of the European Commission in Bulgaria Mr. Ognian Zlatev.
“To know more about each other”, that was the appeal of the Executive Director of the Bulgarian School of Politics, Ms. Irina Alexieva. She stressed that only by knowing each other we can overcome our fears, our prejudices and build a common future. At the closing of the Summer Academy, the Executive Director of the BSoP reminded the participants to use and increase the knowledge they acquired, to develop their skills and to work for better future of their countries and the common region that we share.
The Summer Academy for Strengthening Democracy in the Euro-Med Region is an initiative of the Bulgarian School of Politics “Dimitry Panitza”, organized in cooperation with the Tunisian School of Politics and the Citizenship School of Political Studies in Morocco. It is supported by South Programme II “Towards a Strengthened Democratic Governance in the Southern Mediterranean” (2015-2017), funded by the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.