Demetrios Maragkos, the initiator of “Balkans across Borders” tries to unite youth across the Balkans and to promote the European idea. With his film festival he seeks to promote the common values and ideas, youth from the Balkans and the EU share, to bring them closer together.
“I am interested in helping young people find their way,” says Demetrios Maragkos of Balkans Beyond Borders. His organization is well-known for its annual film festival that centers around a pan-European theme and connects youth from across the Balkan region. As a project manager, Demetrios works directly with young participants and manages the organization’s mobility program, which has engaged 6000 people. During the #DialogueOnEurope Lab, Orange Magazine had a chance to speak with Demetrios about the ties that exist between the EU and the Balkans, and ways on how the youth can be a multiplier of change.
What is the project “Balkans Beyond Borders” about?
Our main idea is to help young people around the Balkans to be more mobile within the EU, either by using opportunities such as Erasmus +, or through cultural exchange. Every year, we organize a thematic movie festival in a different city in the Balkans, which connects youth from across the region. The project started in 2009-2010, after a youth meeting similar to the one we are having here, during #DialogueOnEurope. Within this framework, three activists decided to start an organization to help young people get to know each other, find common values, and do this by running their first film festival. We also do a lot of information campaigns, and we try to bring in a lot of people from around Europe to tell them about the opportunities here, too. We want to continue doing the film festivals and get involved with more European programs to make a link between the EU and Balkans stronger.
How does your organisation cooperate with EU partners?
The main source of funding is from the European fund for Balkans. Through European mobility programs, we also cooperate with organizations outside the Balkan region and try to bring people from different countries to cooperate on common programs. For example, we did a project for Greek and Turkish youth in order to identify the common values among young people today, and differentiate between various religious and cultural aspects.
What are the challenges you have at work?
The biggest challenge is how to engage young people. Opportunities exist, but they are not widely known. We try to promote them by running workshops and information campaigns, so the youth know about the possibilities they have, mainly within the EU, to receive education, training, and cultural exchange. We want to engage young people so they become multipliers of knowledge in their environment, and share their skills and knowledge with others.
How do you choose a theme for a film festival?
We try to acknowledge the realities faced by the youth and address the problems common to the EU region. Last year, our theme was “Reinventing Bridges.” We wanted to see how young people could find the connections between their home countries and the EU — by focusing on both European identity and national identity.
Each year, we try to find a theme that is close to common problems faced by the youth in the region and try to find common solutions through platforms that allow them to express their ideas and to become multipliers of knowledge.
(by Anna Romandash and Demetrios Pogkas, editing: Anna Valmero)
This story was published by Orange Magazine, which has been created by the European Youth Press (EYP) to provide journalistic education and to support young journalists by giving them room to explore media and current affairs. For more information about this edition, please visit: http://www.