President [of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo] Pendarovski, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
I am happy to address the second edition of the European Union – Western Balkans Media Literacy conference, which is an annual highlight in our work with civil society and authorities in countering disinformation in the Western Balkans.
Disinformation threatens democracies around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even clearer that it targets citizens, polarises societies, challenges democratic values, and even threatens lives and public safety through misleading health advice.
We need to work together to keep closing the space for disinformation, raising awareness and advancing our responses.
Fact-checkers, independent and professional media, and citizens in the region work tirelessly on countering disinformation. Your work is crucial.
Citizens of the Western Balkans are now more aware and more resilient to disinformation. Media literacy helps and we are determined to keep contributing to this work in the region.
The European Union finances studies that strengthen understanding; we promote awareness about the issue and invest in education and activities such as workshops for students and teachers across the whole Western Balkans.
However, we cannot do this alone. Dealing with disinformation requires a whole-of-government approach that facilitates whole-of-society participation.
In 10 days, the European Union – Western Balkans Summit will take place, the most important high-level event for discussing our relations.
There is no doubt on the European Union side: the Western Balkans are at the heart of Europe and we share responsibility for building a peaceful, prosperous and united Europe. And we also share responsibility for communicating about it.
Today’s conference is a clear example of the productive cooperation between the people of the Western Balkans and the European Union to tackle common challenges. Investing in empowering the people of the Western Balkans means investing in a stronger Europe.
I want to thank you all for contributing to this important discussion and for your important work.
Let me particularly thank the Macedonian Institute for Media for co-organising this event, together with our European Union Delegation in Skopje and the EEAS Stratcom Western Balkans Task Force.
I am certainly looking forward to reading your conclusions.