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.
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.
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
9th meeting of the EU-Montenegro Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee.
The EESC organised its Sixth Western Balkans Civil Society Forum in Sarajevo on 10-11 July 2017.
The main topics on the agenda were the role of civil society organisations in promoting sustainable growth and employment, migration in the Western Balkans, freedom of expression and media, as well as rights and empowerment of women.
It brought together 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.
The EESC and the Western Balkans: a two-level approach
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has developed a dual approach, regional and bilateral, for its relations with civil society organizations (CSOs) of the Western Balkans.
Following the publication of the European Commission's Update to the New Industrial Strategy, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has been carrying out a series of activities to fulfil its role of representing the views of organised civil society. A first event in this process has been a conference held on 17 June 2021, from 2.30 to 6 p.m., on Updated industrial strategy: towards a more resilient and strategically autonomous EU industry?
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), representing the economic and social interests of organised civil society in the European Union (EU), has strongly and consistently supported the enlargement of the European Union to the six Western Balkans countries provided they fulfil all the necessary criteria for membership.
As the role and the voice of the civil society are vital for making any tangible progress on issues and values at the very core of the European Union, the EESC made the present declaration as its contribution to the political leaders participating to the Western Balkans Summit on 6 May 2020.
The EU Neighbourhood, especially the candidates and potential candidates for EU accession, is at the very top of the priority list for the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) with regard to external relations.