Civil society organisations opened the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU with an expert advocacy panel “EU as a Forgotten Peace Project?” in Vukovar

Civil society organisations gathered within the Forum 2020 platform held an expert advocacy panel “EU as a Forgotten Peace Project?” on 14th-15th January in Vukovar. The goal of the event was to, on the anniversary of peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region and Croatia’s international recognition, discuss the role of peacebuilding in EU’s foreign policy and ways in which Croatia, as the only member state with a recent experience of military conflict, can give its contribution in this area. 

The event started on 14th January in Vukovar City Library with a panel discussion titled “Croatian and post-Yugoslav peacebuilding experience as a contribution to EU peacebuilding policy” during which peace activists from Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina concluded that it is necessary to work on building trust between conflicted sides, with a focus on connecting regular citizens and strengthening solidarity. 

At the end of the first day there was a free film projection for the citizens of Vukovar of “Jojo Rabbit”, directed by Taika Waititi. It was organized in cooperation with Zagreb Film Festival and was very well attended. 

Second day of the event started with a visit to Vukovar remembrance sites during which participants paid their respect to the victims of war, followed by a performance titled “Imagine” by Nina Bačun, whose goal was to emphasize the importance of building togetherness and solidarity in order for peace to become a permanent legacy. The rest of the program was held in the Vukovar City Museum. 

A panel discussion on the current challenges to the European peace project and developing global peacebuilding mechanisms followed. The international peacebuilding policy experts concluded the discussion by pointing out the necessity of strengthening the cooperation between EU institutions and civil society organisations which work on grassroots level and are familiar with local circumstances. 

Parallel to the discussion a youth workshop titled “Rethinking the city’s past: Vukovar through time” was organized by Documenta – Centre for Dealing With the Past. 

Final part of the event included discussions on peacebuilding case studies. The first discussion focused on the issue of documenting war crimes from the beginning of conflict, with an emphasis on cooperation between state institutions, academia and civil society organisations in order to gather reliable data which can serve as a basis for later judiciary proceedings within the transitional justice framework, as well as for long-term trust-building. 

The final panel reminded us about the process of peaceful reintegration of Croatian Danube region as an example of peacebuilding policy. The panelists pointed out the significance of political will in non-violent conflict resolution and concluded that the peacebuilding process must consist of a combination of activities on different levels, from international humanitarian law to local activism. 

Over 90 people from 5 countries participated in this two-day event, which will result in publishing recommendations regarding strengthening the peacebuilding mechanisms as part of EU foreign policy.