The future of the Western Balkans should be a European future

More than 100 civil society representatives have adopted their contribution to the EU-Western Balkans Heads of State Summit in Sofia on 15 May.

Participants at the high-level conference were convinced that the enlargement of the EU, and in particular the spread of its democratic values and legal standards to the Western Balkan region, was in the interest of both the Western Balkan countries and the EU. Promoting EU values in the region guarantees security and stability and enhances social and economic development, democracy and the rule of law in these countries which in turn means stability and security for the EU.

The future of the region is a European future, underlined the EESC president, Luca Jahier in his statement at the conference.I am convinced that there is no other alternative for both the EU and the Western Balkan countries than to make steady, transformative and sustainable steps towards full membership.

I truly believe that it is in the interest not just of the countries and people of the Western Balkans, but also of all of us in the EU, to integrate this region into our common Union as soon as possible, said Dilyana Slavova, president of the EESC's External Relations Section at the opening of the conference.

The Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ekaterina Zaharieva also underlined the need to involve civil society: The social partners have an important role in the socio-economic development and cohesion of the Western Balkans. She hoped to see two of the Western Balkan countries become EU members by 2025.

 The representatives of civil society organisations focused particularly on the rights and empowerment of vulnerable groups in the region.(sg)