EESC's Western Balkans Follow-up Committee listens to the voices of Albanian social partners and youth organisations

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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.

Dilyana Slavova, the president of the External Relations Section (REX), and Dragica Martinović Džamonja, the president of the EESC's Western Balkans Follow-up Committee, led the EESC delegation at their meeting with H.E. Luigi Soreca, the new head of the EU's delegation to Albania. With a view to the possible start of EU accession negotiations with Albania in 2019, it was stressed that civil society, including youth organisations and social partners, should be genuinely involved in all stages of the accession process.

After listening to the views of Albanian civil society, Ms Martinović Džamonja held bilateral meetings with high-ranked Albanian officials to pass on the main messages she had received. She met Lindita Nikolla, Minister of Education, Sports and Youth, Dajna Sorensen, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy with responsibility for Employment and VET, Vasilika Hysi, Deputy Chair of the Albanian Parliament, and Gent Cakaj, Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. At these meetings Ms Martinović Džamonja explained that the EESC's role was to give a voice to organised civil society at EU level and that the EESC delegation had come to Albania to share the EU's good practices and expertise regarding public consultation and participation in decision-making processes. It was acknowledged that Albania had made progress in a number of areas in recent years, but it was also stressed that the implementation of reforms needed to continue at a steady pace in order for Albania to progress down the road to the EU.

The EESC's Western Balkans Follow-up Committee intends to share the main conclusions from its mission to Albania with other EU institutions as well. These meetings in Albania are a step towards the EESC's 7th Western Balkans Civil Society Forum, which is to be held in 2019.

Background: The EESC's Western Balkans Follow-up Committee was established in 2004 to follow political, economic and social developments in Western Balkan countries and encourage the development of civil society and consolidation of democracy in the region. The Follow-up Committee meets up to three times a year, in Brussels or in the region, with the aim of consulting civil society stakeholders and political leaders on topical issues. The Western Balkans Follow-up Committee is made up of twelve members of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).