7th Western Balkans Civil Society Forum: Renewed Impetus for EU Enlargement Policy

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The 7th edition of the Western Balkans Civil Society Forum took place in Tirana on 16 and 17 April, gathering over 180 representatives of Western Balkans trade unions, employers and civil society organizations, EESC members, representatives of the governments of the Western Balkans, and EU and international institutions. The major themes that were discussed at the Forum were: the relations between the EU and the Western Balkans, the role of CSOs and social partners in promoting regional cooperation (in trade and investment, connectivity and people-to-people relations), and the state of social dialogue and enabling civic space in the Western Balkans.

Anja Bosilkova-Antovska represented BCSDN at the panel on assessment and perspectives of the relations between the EU and the Western Balkans, together with Colin Wolfe, Head of Unit for Western Balkans Regional Co-operation and Programmes – DG NEAR, and Polish Ambassador Wieslaw Tarka. She spoke about the degrading situation of civil society in the region, the need to make the enlargement policy more effective through increased financial and political EU support, especially in times of shirking civic space, and the unleashed potential of regional cooperation and regional civil society initiatives. BCSDN members led the panel on achieving an enabling civic space on the second day of the event, where Bojana Selakovic from Civic Initiatives (Serbia), Zorana Markovic from CRNVO (Montenegro) and Juliana Hoxha from Partners Albania (Albania) raised important issues regarding the state of civil society in their countries.

Participants adopted the Final Declaration of the 7th Western Balkan Civil Society Forum, and concluded the Forum 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 event was organized by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), representing the economic and social components of organized civil society in the European Union (EU), with the support of the European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council.

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