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.
The EESC is actively engaged in the enlargement process of the EU and has developed a dual approach - regional and bilateral - for its relations with civil society organisations (CSOs) in the enlargement countries.
As far as the regional approach is concerned, the Western Balkans Follow-up Committee – a permanent internal body of the EESC – is the main instrument for coordinating the EESC's activities in this region. The Western Balkans Civil Society Forum, organised every two years, is part of the work of the Follow-up Committee.
The EESC also works bilaterally with countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey. On the basis of association agreements between these countries and the EU, in order to involve CSOs in the pre-accession and accession processes, the EESC has created three joint bodies with civil society representatives – with Turkey, Montenegro and Serbia. Each body is composed of an equal number of members from the EESC and the partner country and meets twice a year.
The EESC keeps up regular contacts and organises joint activities with the CSOs of enlargement countries with whom no joint body of civil society representatives has yet been established.
The work of the joint bodies is complemented by the preparation of EESC opinions on the pre-accession and accession processes of individual countries, as well as on topics of regional interest.
For the 8th time, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and Montenegro held the Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) in Budva, Montenegro.
This meeting tackled following issues: Assessment of the state of play in Montenegro accession negotiations to the EU, Chapter 28 of the accession negotiations – with focus on Consumer protection and Debate on the situation of young people on the labour market.
For the 7th time, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and Montenegro held the Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee (JCC).
The meeting was held in Brussels and tackled following issues:
- The current state of play in EU-Montenegro relations and the accession process
- The Connectivity Agenda in the areas of Energy and Transport
- Chapter 5 - Public procurement
- The state of industrial relations and the development of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Montenegro
The EESC will keep on advocating for the enlargement process to go on, in an inclusive, transparent and fair manner. Any delay due to the current turmoil in the EU has to be seen as a chance for reaching a better level of preparedness when entering the EU. But for this opportunity to be seized, the EU needs to work side by side with civil society in the region.