Civil society from Western Balkans and Ukraine have joined forces in a newly-established network that aims to expand cooperation and collaboration between different sectors in Ukraine and Balkan countries.
Initiated by PROI association (Bosnia and Herzegovina), New Geopolitics Research Network (Ukraine), and Analytical Centre for Balkans Studies (Ukraine), the Balkans-Ukraine Cooperation Network (BUCN) is the first network of its kind focused on linking Ukrainian and Western Balkans counterparts. The network brings together civil society organizations and activists – from Ukraine, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia – dedicated to strengthening the rule of law and democracy, stability, and peace in Ukraine, the Western Balkans, and the European Union.
The decision on establishing the Network was made during the Civil Society Regional Dialogue: Balkans-Ukraine Partnership held in Sarajevo on 4-5th October 2022. The participants agreed that by expanding cooperation in different sectors, Ukraine and Western Balkans countries will become more secure, safe, and competitive, thus contributing to making Europe more strong and resilient as a whole. During a first joint meeting, the members of the network adopted the Joint Civil Society Declaration on the Western Balkans – Ukraine Cooperation and committed to working together and undertaking joint actions with regard to EU enlargement processes and Euro-Atlantic Cooperation; Strategic Communications, Security Defense and Hybrid Threats; Humanitarian Cooperation and Post-War Recovery; Economic and Business Development Cooperation; Youth, Education and Cultural Cooperation.
“While Ukrainians are defending their freedom against the illegal aggression by the Russian Federation, the Western Balkans countries are struggling from pro-Russian propaganda, disinformation, and Russian political influence aimed at destabilizing the region. The situation is all the more serious because Russia’s competitive footprint in the Western Balkans has long been unmistakable — from networking pro-Russian associations, and forming corruption schemes aimed at economic and energy blackmail, to fomenting ethnic tensions and coup attempts. The cooperation and coordination between Ukraine and Western Balkans are crucial and we believe only in unity can we win and overcome the damaging consequences of the Russian war” – said the president of the PROI Association, Uliana Bakh.
Kateryna Shymkevych from the Ukrainian Center for Balkan Studies emphasizes that the establishment of the Network is an important step for Ukraine and the entire Balkan region. “Ukraine can now use the experience of the countries of the Western Balkans in post-war reconstruction, in investigating war crimes and punishing war criminals. Ukraine is important for the Balkans as a country with a good and successful implementation of EU requirements in the context of European integration. The joint exchange of experience creates the possibility of a new connection in regional development and cooperation.”
“The idea of BUCN is to form new horizontal structures of cooperation between Ukraine and the Balkan countries in a wide range of spheres, industries, and topics. Ukraine’s victory over Russia causes a global transformation of geopolitical, economic, energy and security models. This time is unique for building new mutually beneficial relations between Ukraine and the Balkans. BUCN will work and serve just for that.” – Mykhailo Samus, director of New Geopolitics Research Network .
The meeting was attended by representatives of the following organizations and civil society groups: PROI, Youth Advocacy Board (BiH), New Geopolitics Research Network (Ukraine), Ukrainian Center for Balkan Studies (Ukraine), Civic initiative 21. May (Montenegro), Centre for the strategic analysis (Serbia), NGO Horizon Civitas (North Macedonia), NGO Legis (North Macedonia), CLEAR Global (Croatia), EU Policy Hub (Albania), StopFake (Ukraine), Analytical Center ADASTRA (Ukraine), NUMO ( Ukraine), National Ukrainian Youth Association NUMO (Ukraine) and independent analysts and journalists from the region.