The Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova congratulated the participants in the closing event of the Balkan Youth Forum. Twenty-eight youths from 12 countries selected among more than 300 candidates went through a remarkable program for a week and in the hall of the Sofia Municipal Council presented their ideas for more connected Balkans, with more cooperation and a more significant role for young people.
The ideas of young people for connectivity in the Balkans are extremely important to us, said the Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova. Young people are the most mobile and technologically connected. Therefore, no one can make youth policy, isolated from their neighbours. Driven by this understanding, we in Sofia were actively involved in the programme of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which ended in June. One of the key events in Sofia, which we held in partnership with the European Commission and the Sofia Development Association, was the first Balkan hackathon "Overcoming Digital Boundaries" with the participation of 30 teams from 10 countries.
Mayor Fandakova congratulated all participants and young, 19 years old Yana Voynova, who won a prize for this project. I congratulate and thank the US Embassy and Sofia Development Association for the support. Partnerships are the most important to move an idea that concerns many young people from concept to reality.
The Balkan Youth Forum is a non-formal learning program for youth (16 – 18 years of age) from the Balkan states, designed by a very young team of alumni of the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship program, aged 18 to 21. The project is the result of the competition of the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) 2017, won by the Bulgarian Yana Voynova. It is funded by the U.S. State Department's AIEF, the US Embassy in Bulgaria and is implemented with the support of Sofia Development Association.
The US Embassy's press officer, Mrs. Samantha Smith addressed the closing event.
Fandakova also pointed out that we have some very young municipal councillors in the Sofia Municipal Council, only 6-7 years older than the participants in the Balkan Youth Forum. On their initiative was adopted the Sofia Youth Strategy and a Consultative Youth Council was established, affiliated to the mayor of Sofia Municipality.