The 7th edition of the Western Balkans Civil Society Forum, which took place in Tirana on 16 and 17 April, concluded with a call for the next Commission to maintain the Western Balkans enlargement policy as one of its priorities in the interest of both the region and of the EU.
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Civil society representatives from both the EU and Turkey called on Turkish authorities to undertake major reforms in the fields of rule of law and human rights as a prerequisite to resume accession negotiations with the EU. This was one of the main conclusions of the 38th meeting of the EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) held in Brussels on 8 and 9 April, which also agreed on the important role of the JCC as an open channel for exchanges at civil society level.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted at its March plenary session an opinion on the Joint Communication "Connecting Europe and Asia – Building blocks for an EU Strategy", issued by the European Commission and the EU High Representative in September 2018. The EESC considers it to be a seriously missed opportunity, with many significant strategic gaps, little ambition and no real depth of vision offered as to the development of EU's relationship and connectivity with Asia.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted in its March plenary session on 20 March, an opinion proposing an EU-led global peace-building strategy which includes the creation of the WhiteDoveWay, a path of peace from Northern Ireland to Nicosia, to promote dialogue, reconciliation and conflict prevention following in the initial footsteps of the sixth century Irish pilgrim Columbanus.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted in its February plenary session an opinion supporting the continuation of the European Peace and Reconciliation Programme (PEACE) in Northern Ireland after the UK's withdrawal from the EU. This continued support is considered as "crucial" given the sensitivity of the debate on the UK/Ireland border in the context of the Brexit negotiations.
Civil society representatives from both Serbia and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) asked the EU institutions to monitor more effectively the reforms in the area of the rule of law in Serbia and other EU candidate countries in a joint declaration issued as an outcome of the 8th meeting of the EU-Serbia Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) that took place in Brussels on 27 February.
At its January plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion on the reinforcement of the role of Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs) in monitoring the implementation of free trade agreements (FTAs) signed by the European Union. DAGs are already responsible for supervising the implementation of FTAs in the areas of sustainable development and labour standards, but the EESC wants to extend this monitoring role to include all aspects of the agreements, including the core trade provisions.
At a time when major global players have initiated a trade war and protectionism is back in many parts of the world, the European Commission is promoting the establishment of a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes. In relation to this initiative, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) calls for fundamental questions on scope, protection of public interest, accessibility and relations with domestic courts to be addressed.
2018 Euromed Summit of Economic and Social Councils and similar institutions
The EESC's Western Balkans Follow-up Committee went to Tirana last week to meet representatives of Albanian civil society. On 24 September the committee members met social partners to discuss the state of social dialogue in Albania, and on 25 September they held a hearing on youth policy and youth participation in Albanian society.