EU accession remains a key motivation for reforms in the countries of the Western Balkans
The 7th edition of the Western Balkans Civil Society Forum, which took place in Tirana on 16 and 17 April, concluded with a call for the next Commission to maintain the Western Balkans enlargement policy as one of its priorities in the interest of both the region and of the EU.
EESC criticises European Council decision to deny the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is deeply disappointed about EU leaders' decision to further postpone opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania at the European Council of 17-18 October, due to the lack of unanimity between the Member States.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 EESC organised its 7th Western Balkans Civil Society Forum in Tirana on 16-17 April 2019.
The main topics on the agenda were the role of civil society organisations in promoting regional cooperation (trade and investment, connectivity and people to people relations), the state of social dialogue, as well as enabling civic space in the Western Balkans.
It brought together approximately 180 participants, including a broad range of civil society representatives from the EU and the Western Balkans, as well as representatives of EU institutions, international organisations and governments of the region.
This years' meeting outside of Brussels was held on 2 June 2016 in the Delegation of the European Union in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and included a hearing with the civil society organisations (CSOs).
The goal of this hearing was for our Western Balkans Follow-up Committee to listen to the views on the role of civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to convey these messages to the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the political authorities of the EU. The following topics were discussed at the hearing: social dialogue and civil dialogue, the state of the economy and the labour market, the participation of civil society organisations in the EU's enlargement process and in the implementation of the Reform Agenda 2015 – 2018, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This hearing is a step towards the 6th Western Balkans Civil Society Forum to be held in 2017.