Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Dilyana Slavova, President of the External Relations Section, issued a joint statement on 26 March welcoming the Council's decision of 24 March 2020 to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.
Mr Jahier and Ms Slavova stressed that "During these difficult times for the region, for Europe and the world, it is of crucial importance to send out to the Western Balkans the encouraging and positive message that we stand united and that, in the words of the president of the European Commission, we share the same continent, the same history, the same culture – and that we will share the same destiny too."
In their statement, they also recalled that the EESC had strongly supported the enlargement of the European Union to the six Western Balkans countries "provided they fulfil all the necessary criteria for membership."
On the role of civil society in the upcoming accession negotiations, Mr Jahier and Ms Slavova stressed that "the social dialogue and the role of the social partners and civil society organisations in the accession negotiations must be strongly encouraged and promoted, as it is the only way to monitor and ensure respect of core European values, including the rule of law, fundamental human rights, judicial reform, the fight against corruption and discrimination, and freedom of the press."
The statement concludes by reiterating that the EESC is firmly committed to continuing and strengthening its efforts "to be the voice of the civil society and act as a bridge towards EU institutions and their governments. " (dgf)