Networking in Velenje

Tue 1 Jul 2003


Theme : Networking for Democracy in South Eastern Europe

In co-operation with : Kalendar Foundation

Financed by : European Forum and Renner Institut

Venue : Velenje, Slovenia

Date : June 26-28

Political context

After all the political and economic hardships the countries of South Eastern Europe have gone through in the recent past, they are now all advancing in the reforms needed to join the European Union. One former Yugoslav country – Slovenia, has already signed the Accession Treaty and will become a full member in 2004. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are aiming to join in 2007; Macedonia has already signed a Stability and Association Agreement and is expected to soon formally apply for membership; Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania are lagging behind.

In the context of prospective European integration, the European Forum has the task of supporting democratisation and political reform processes in these countries. One of the tools used is spreading political information and analysis through the Country Updates of the Forum, written with the active support of young contact persons in the region. To that aim, the Forum organises Networking for Democracy seminars, which acquaint new young contact persons from Social Democratic Parties in South Eastern Europe with the work of the European Forum, and create a good base for future contacts in light with the Country Updates of the Forum. After explaining in detail the structure and purpose of the European Form Country Updates, the participants become our contact persons, who keep the Forum informed on important political developments in their respective countries.

This year, the Networking for Democracy seminar coincides with the celebration of Ten Years European Forum, on the occasion of which a conference “The changing role of the political foundations” was organised in Velenje.


Trainers : Arjen Berkvens and Matilda Nahabedian

Participants: : Danail Georgiev, Bulgarian Socialist Youth

: Daniela Coman, Social Democratic Party, Romania

: Davor Vuletic, Social Democratic Party, BiH

: Djordje Zivancev, League of Social Democratic Youth of Vojvodina

: Elvis Mataj, Socialist Youth Albania

: Ivan Chanovic, Social Democraitic Youth, Serbia

: Karolina Leakovic, Social Democratic Party, Croatia

: Reis Mulita, Social Democratic Party, Albania

The training started on Friday evening with a short introduction of the European Forum as an organisation, introduction of the trainers and the participants. The planned ice-breaking game proved to be unnecessary, as there was a very good and friendly atmosphere between the participants themselves, but also towards the trainers. A dinner together in the hotel was the perfect way to get to know each other better.

On Saturday morning, the training started with a detailed presentation on the Country Updates of the Forum, their purpose, history, and mostly – their structure and contents. The half-hour presentation was followed by a practical session in the computer hall, where each participant could get acquainted with the website of the Forum and specifically the page with the Country Updates. Everyone was looking into their respective country and commenting on the information which they could read in the website. Overall, the impressions were very good, and those participants who found their country’s information outdated, felt responsible for sending us new updates.

The participants were then asked to think of the three most important issues of the domestic and foreign policies of their countries, and formulate them into a 200-words text. Everyone had the chance to present their analysis, and the results were overall of a very good quality.

For the last and very important part of the Country Updates – the political parties landscape, the participant received training on how to conduct a SWOT analysis. This is a strategy tool for political campaigns, as well as a very good instrument to look at your political party from an objective point of view. After a training session on how to conducts such an analysis, the participants had the time to write a SWOT analysis on their own parties. The results were again very good and interesting for the trainers themselves.

The seminar reached an end on Friday evening with some final remarks on what the further role of the participants will be. Some of the participants joined the conference “The changing role of the political foundations”, which opened on Saturday morning.

Conclusion and comments for the future

All eight participants are actively involved in their respective organisations – mostly national youth organisations of their parties, but some participants were even involved in the core party work itself. They were all very intelligent young people, which made the seminar very easy to lead, and the atmosphere was friendly and professional at the same time. The participants were very enthusiastic in helping with the writing of the country updates. Therefore, it is up to the staff of the European Forum to try to find a way to maintain this enthusiasm and make the most use of it. the group consisted of typical ‘internet generation’ people. For that reason, email discussion list called “NETworking for Democracy” was created, which could facilitate the exchange of information between us.

This year, the Networking for Democracy seminars are conducted in a slightly different way then before – mostly the difference is that they are more concise and lack the theoretical parts on Social Democratic processes in the region that were present in before. We find that the current way of conducting the programme is excellent, provided the goals of the seminar. Before the Velenje seminar, a Networking for Democracy was organised in St. Petersburg (13 and 14 June), covering Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. A third regional seminar for the South Caucasus will find place in Armenia in November. By this, we will cover all priority countries of work of the European Forum and the political foundation it comprises.

Matilda Nahabedian

1 July 2003