Balkan Students Join Global Action Against Climate Change

School pupils across the Balkans will join hundreds of thousands of other youngsters on Friday taking part in a global protest against climate change, as part of the 'Fridays for Future' movement.

A demonstrator holds a sign reading ‘There is no planet B’ during a demonstration against global warming, in Berlin, Germany. Photo: EPA/OMER MESSINGER

School students from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Moldova, North Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia will be participating in “Fridays for Future” protests this Friday, joining their peers from nearly 100 countries and 1,500 cities who will take part in this global strike action.

Their aim is to send a clear, peaceful message about the need for climate justice, urging all countries to act on climate change now.

The movement began in August last year when environmentally concerned 15-year-old Swedish pupil Greta Thunberg decided to skip school every Friday and sat in front of the Swedish parliament until the Scandinavian country’s government reduces its carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

Since then, she has become a global phenomenon who has galvanised hundreds of thousands of students and pupils elsewhere to take to the streets.

“The situation we are facing today is unique. We are the last generation to have a realistic chance to prevent a climate catastrophe,” Fridays for Future wrote in a press release.

The Balkan region is also experiencing the symptoms of a changing climate and worsening pollution. In January, Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, ranked as having the worst air quality in the world, with North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, coming in the top ten.

Bosnia and Bulgaria are also used to thick fogs or smogs filling their cities and covering landmark buildings.

Ivo Bosilkov, one of the organisers of the rally in Skopje, told BIRN that people in the region need to wake up.

“Joining this movement was my way to help spread that message in the Balkans, in which awareness about the impact of climate change is low, ironically, given that our environment is in a catastrophic state,” he said.

Trying to gain support for the movement, he was shocked by the push back he received from the city’s teachers and school directors. Nevertheless, he expects a few hundred students to join him in Skopje.

Valeria Kostova, an organiser from Bulgaria, said growing anxiety about the environment prompted her to bring the movement to Sofia.

“I wanted to make people in Bulgaria a little more conscious of the most pressing problem we are facing, and hopefully put an end to misinformation and draw attention to a topic that needs it,” she told BIRN.

Kostova expects about 50 people to join her at a protest, but said she was “open to surprises”.

Diana Negoita, a Romanian organiser who began protesting on March 8 in the capital, Bucharest, says she has been contacted by other students and organisations seeking to get involved in climate activism.

“A lot of people know about the subject and want to do something, but it’s hard to break apart from the mentality you are used to. However, it’s about time,” she told BIRN.

“Romania won’t be one of the few in the end. We will be one among many,” she concluded, optimistically.

Alexis Traussi