Perks and Kukan discuss the future of Montenegro's youth in the EU
BRUSSELS, MAY 31, 2012 – Within the 3 day EU Enlargement consultations between the UNICEF Representatives from the Western Balkans and key partners from the European parliament, External Affairs and the DG Enlargement and Justice in Brussels, UNICEF Montenegro Representative Benjamin Perks met today with Eduard Kukan, Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for South-Eastern Europe, to discuss the expectations, challenges and opportunities of youth in the Western Balkans.
UNICEF Montenegro Representative Benjamin Perks presented the situation of children in Montenegro and pointed out that "EU accession provides an opportunity to narrow the gap between the conditions and opportunities for children and youth in Montenegro and those in the EU member states. We are all duty bound to ensure Montenegrin children today and future generations - especially the most vulnerable - gain from the process. We are working hard with government and civil society to achieve this."
According to Eduard Kukan, Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for South Eastern Europe, children are at the heart of the accession process. “In the process of EU integration, Montenegrin government has shown dedication to comply with EU standards. Together with UNICEF, Montenegro shows interest in addressing the key priorities: alleviation of poverty, economic development, youth empowerment and child rights. However, Montenegro still fights with some obstacles. Issues such as children living in poverty, equity and inclusion of children must be addressed. Special attention needs to be invested in marginalized groups, notably children of minorities and children with disabilities.”
From May 29 to May 31, Benjamin Perks, together with four other UNICEF Representatives from Western Balkan enlargement countries, has been discussing with key partners from the European parliament, External Affairs and the DG Enlargement and Justice the aspects of the EU accession process which relate to children. These include child welfare reform, social protection, the fight against poverty and exclusion, education, youth, health, data systems and human rights monitoring.
One of the conclusions from the EU Enlargement consultations is that for Western Balkans, as the region with the youngest population in Europe, it is essential to have a young, educated society and build the countries’ social capital. Children are the most valuable resource that any country has. Ensuring that they achieve their full potential is the best investment a country can make for its future.