Contribution of civil society to the Green Agenda and sustainable development of the Western Balkans as part of the EU accession process (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: Contribution of civil society to the Green Agenda and sustainable development of the Western Balkans as part of the EU accession process (own-initiative opinion)

Key points:

  • The opinion deals with two major current topics, the enlargement and the Green Agenda, integrating the new COVID-19 crises, and points out the importance of assimilating the Western Balkans in the European Green Deal.
  • The EESC has supported and continues to strongly advocate for the enlargement of the European Union (EU) to the six Western Balkans countries provided they fulfil the necessary criteria for membership.
  • The EESC believes that the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis should endorse green policies and that the green transition has to be an integral part of a comprehensive and forward-looking recovery plan in the Western Balkans.
  • Considering the significant investments and regulatory adaptations required, the EESC strongly believes that social partners and CSOs have a particularly important role to play in the transition towards a greener and more sustainable society, especially as regards specific political contexts in the Western Balkans.
  • The EESC recalls that the Western Balkans are highly sensitive to the impacts of climate change resulting in damage to general health and the economy, and need urgent action to better the quality of life for their citizens, especially children and young people, by a just transition to a greener model, having in mind the 'no one should be left behind' principle.
  • The EESC calls for the future actions towards greener Western Balkans to be adapted to the region's specific challenges, including an adequate regulatory framework, cross-border activities, innovative technological solutions, locally produced and consumed energy and energy efficiency, sustainable urban transport, road and rail networks, public and private engagement, ICT and fast internet deployment, agri-food measures, etc.
  • The EESC considers that the challenges in the Western Balkans can be turned into opportunities by investing in research and innovation, learning and adopting alternative approaches, circular economy, waste management, greener energy and connectivity solutions, as well as active measures to protect the rich biodiversity of the region.
  • The EESC stresses the importance of developing green skills within active national and regional education/training and skills strategies, with a particular accent on gender equality, in cooperation with relevant actors and within an effective social dialogue.
  • The EESC stresses that good governance and democratic institutions, the rule of law, successful anti-corruption policies, the fight against organised crime, respect for human rights and security need to be properly implemented in the Western Balkans. As greening of the economy needs substantial investment, it is vital to recall that the rule of law is a key factor in ensuring an effective business climate and attracting private and foreign direct investment.