RYCO Meeting, photo credit: RYCO
Serbia’s Ministry of Sport and Youth has sacked Milica Skiljevic as Serbia’s Youth Representative to the board of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, RYCO, prompting speculation that she was axed in connection with ongoing Pristina-Belgrade tensions.
Skiljevic confirmed her dismissal on Wednesday to BIRN and said she had not received any explanation for her removal.
“I called the Ministry and asked from them the official explanation, so I could make the official statement on this,” she told BIRN.
Kosovo officials and media on Wednesday suggested that Skiljevic was sacked because she had agreed to take part in the RYCO meeting to be held in Kosovo on March 13.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as an independent country and its officials avoid attending any meetings at which Kosovo is represented as a state.
As a result of the sacking, the meeting in Kosovo was unable to make any decisions. There needs to be at least one participant from each country for the Council to function.
“Last night, we were informed that one of the members from Serbia was discharged by the Serbian government because she had confirmed her arrival here. Today, we have not been able to continue the meeting due to the lack of quorum,” Kujtim Gashi, Kosovo’s Minister for Culture, Youth and Sport said, Kosova Press reported.
Serbia’s Sport and Youth Ministry did not reply to a BIRN request for a comment by the time of publication.
The RYCO is a pan-Balkan youth cooperation office that aims to restore links between young people whose countries were in conflict during the 1990s.
On Wednesday, its secretariat urged the six member governments of the Western Balkans to refrain from any other actions that may harm decision-making and regional cooperation.
“Regional cooperation can only be built by fostering and exercising dialogue and understanding. In this respect, RYCO reiterates that the involvement of young people in decision-making processes should be free from political influences that prevent them from exercising their roles,” RYCO said in a Twitter post.
Enver Hoxhaj, Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, on Twitter, blamed Serbia for the failure of the RYCO Board meeting saying its action went “against regional cooperation”.
Gashi and Hoxhaj called on the EU to put pressure on Serbia not to hinder the work of the organization.
The RYCO was founded in 2016 by Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia within the Berlin Process, a regional political initiative launched by Germany to help Western Balkan countries prepare to join the European Union.
The youth initiative is based on a landmark reconciliation project designed to bring French and German youth closer together after World War II.
The RYCO funds and facilitates exchange programmes between the participating states. Schools, organisations and individuals can apply for a variety of grants and programmes in fields such as education and research, activism, culture and sport.