The EESC Western Balkans Civil Society Forum, held in Skopje on 30 September and 1 October, highlighted the need for a clear EU membership perspective for the region and the role that civil society should play in this process.
The Forum was organized by the European Economic and Social Committee in cooperation with the European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council ahead of the EU-Western Balkans summit in Brdo on 6 October. It aims to send a clear message to political authorities regarding the challenges and aspirations of civil society in the region.
In their statements, the Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev and the Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, insisted that EU enlargement is a geostrategic investment in peace, poverty reduction and economic growth of the whole continent.
All forum participants agreed that the prospect of EU membership for the Western Balkans is in the very interest of the Union if we are to avoid the destabilization of the region, the influence of third countries and the impacts negative for the EU itself.
Despite the general enthusiasm for the prospect of increased convergence of the region with the EU through the Economic and Investment Plan (EIP), the Green Agenda and support for post-crisis recovery of Covid-19, the discussions that followed showed that the way forward for the EU is long and fraught with challenges. Countries in the region still have a long way to go to strengthen regional cooperation, implement national structural reforms and align with EU legislation. Meaningful civic and social dialogue and genuine inclusion of social partners and other civil society organizations in national politics and reforms remain a challenge in many countries of the Western Balkans.
As indicated byEESC President Christa Schweng, We must not forget either that any discussion on enlargement is implicitly a discussion on the future of Europe.
The participants therefore called for the organization of high-level civil society conferences on the sidelines of the regular EU-Western Balkans summits in order to allow the voice of civil society to be heard on the subjects to be discussed.
Please find the final declaration HERE.
EESC – European Economic and Social Committee published this content on 01 October 2021 and is solely responsible for the information it contains. Distributed by Public, unedited and unmodified, on 02 October 2021 14:40:10 UTC.