The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted the fourth Western Balkans Civil Society Forum in Zagreb on 26 and 27 November 2012. The Forum welcomed the progress made by the countries of the region towards EU accession in recent years. Participants congratulated Croatia on its upcoming accession to the EU and asked the political authorities of potential candidate countries to speed up reforms. They urged the governments of the region to better protect freedom of expression and freedom of the media and highlighted the role of civil society organisations in the enlargement process. They also adopted recommendations to reinvigorate rural areas in the region.
Staffan Nilsson, president of the EESC, Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Vesna Pusić, first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, and MEP Mr Eduard Kukan were among the key figures taking part. Mr. Füle stressed that the European Commission was “putting the rule of law at the centre of its enlargement policy.” Mr. Nilsson noted that the upcoming accession of Croatia to the EU “was bringing the reunification of Europe one step further, following on from the earlier accessions in 2004 and 2007.”