The Western Balkans Fund organized two days of activities on May 7th and 8th 2018 in Tirana, Albania with the grant awarded organizations of the WBF First Call.

It is the first time that such a high number of organizations from the Western Balkans came together for sharing their vision regarding regional cooperation activities, aiming enhancing people to people contacts in our region. 18 projects involving 84 partner organizations from universities, schools, associations of culture, arts, sports and institutions from the Western Balkans region are rewarded, symbolically starting implementation process. The representatives of all 18 organizations were meeting with WBF staff in order to fine-tuning the upcoming process, in order to ensure a smooth cooperation while implementing our projects. In the evening of May 7th, at the WBF premises the Contracts, stipulating the necessary legal requirements, were signed by each representative of awarded organizations and WBF Executive Director.

On the 8th of May, the organizations were awarded in a ceremony where dignitaries from Podgorica, Prishtina, Sarajevo, Skopje and Tirana, diplomats from the region, V4Group and European Union, civil society organizations, academia and media participated. The motto of the event was “WBF – an important instrument for enhancing regional cooperation and people to people contacts”.

Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, Mr. Ditmir Bushati and Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Almir Sahovic joined and greeted the event. Minister Bushati said that this is the first time that the civil society organizations are funded by the Western Balkans Contracting Parties directly. Addressing to the 18 winners of WBF projects, which aim to enhance people to people contact in the Western Balkans, Minister Bushati emphasized that:  “Through these projects we will be able to better know each other, to reduce negative stereotypes which are still prevalent in our societies and to build our future together. The future belongs to you!”

Assistant Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Almir Sahovic, expressed the unconditional support of his country for this very important regional initiative. “This Fund is very important because it shows that our region is changing and our region is going towards European values and European perspectives. We have all been speaking a lot about the need of the increasing of the physical connectivity among our countries throughout our region. Also there is another important connectivity: connectivity among our people. And this is the main aim of our Fund” Mr. Sahovic said.

Executive Director of WBF Dr. Gjergj Murra in his speech underlined that the Western Balkans Fund is now a reality that has started to deliver. “In our assessment, the results of the Call are a clear sign that: The regional stakeholders are mature, willing and ready to cooperate; There is a strong need for support from civil society organizations; The decision, to create WBF was a timely one and very well accepted by our societies” Dr. Murra said.

During the event, there were delivered messages on behalf of Hungarian Presidency of the V4Group, from the Secretary General of Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and also from a wining organization on behalf of the group of grant awarded of the First Call. All the speakers highlighted the importance of a project implementation and expressed their strong belief that the process will bring an added value, to the regional cooperation and people to people contacts in the Western Balkans. At the end, all the organizations present, were awarded with special certificates on behalf of the WBF. 

This important ceremony, symbolically starts the implementation phase of the projects and  WBF Secretariat together with the grantees, will follow carefully all the steps necessary by monitoring the results and the impact of each of the projects.  We are quite confident that, based in the experience and expertise of the awarded organizations, this important phase will bring the desired results in the service of our societies and our beautiful region.