The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has developed a dual approach, regional and bilateral, for its relations with civil society organizations (CSOs) of the Western Balkans.
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The European Union and the Western Balkans have a shared interest in working more closely together to guarantee all our citizens economic and social development, as well as security. The future of the region is a European future. The EU and the Western Balkans economies have benefited from closer integration as trade doubled in the last 10 years. The EU is today the first trading partner of the region, the biggest investor and the most credible and reliable political and geostrategic partner.
EU accession remains a key motivation for reforms in the countries of the Western Balkans
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and Serbia held the 6th meeting of their Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) at the EESC in Brussels. This civil society platform between the EESC and civil society in Serbia was established within the institutional framework of the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) in order to allow civil society organisations on both sides to monitor the country's accession negotiations. It is also a platform to discuss issues of common interest and to inform the public at large of the challenges ahead during the accession period. Besides the current state of play in EU-Serbia relations and the accession process, main topic of the 6th JCC meeting was: Social economy and Involvement of social partners and other civil society organisations in the elaboration of Economic Reform Programmes. A common declaration of the JCC was issued after the meeting.
The Western Balkans Conference was planned as a civil society contribution to the EU-Western Balkans Heads of State Summit, scheduled by the Bulgarian Presidency that took place on 17 May 2018 in Sofia. The Conference gathered EESC members, civil society representatives of the countries of the Western Balkans, as well as Bulgarian officials and members of the organized civil society (including social partners from the Economic and Social Council of Bulgaria). The outcome of the Conference was shared with the participants of the EU-Western Balkans Summit.
At the request of the current Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU, the EESC was asked to prepare an exploratory opinion on the challenges and priorities that countries of the Western Balkans are facing in the European integration process, as well as in the area of economic and social cohesion. Western Balkans will be one of the policy priorities of the Bulgarian presidency and a Western Balkans Summit is scheduled to take place in May 2018 in Sofia. Following the recent economic crises in Europe, the forecasts for economic growth in the Western Balkans are now good, although progress on reform has been slow, the rule of law has been weak, and corruption is persistent.
This 10th JCC was held in Brussels and it tackled the following issues:
- The current state of play in EU-Montenegro relations and the accession process
- The digitalization as a tool for social and economic development
- Public administration reform
- Overview of the civil society in Montenegro
- State of the media sector in Montenegro
- The Joint Declaration from the meeting was adopted
At the request of the future Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU (January-June 2018), the EESC was asked to prepare an exploratory opinion on the challenges and priorities countries of the Western Balkans are facing in the European integration process, as well as in the area of economic and social cohesion. Western Balkans will be one of the policy priorities of the Bulgarian presidency and a Western Balkans Summit is scheduled to take place in May 2018 in Sofia.
The EESC held the 6th Western Balkans Civil Society Forum in Sarajevo on 10-11 July. Participants adopted a Final Declaration calling for increased media freedom, opening the doors of the Western Balkans to EU enlargement, the implementation of migration policies and increased employment opportunities, and working on women's rights.
9th meeting of the EU-Montenegro Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee.