Window of Opportunity for Enlargement: How much Space for Civil Society?

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For the 9th consecutive year, BCSDN has analyzed how the European Commission (EC) has treated the issue of civil society development and assessed the progress made in the Enlargement countries within the Enlargement Strategy and Country Reports 2018 published recently, setting the analysis against BCSDN’s Monitoring Matrix on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development.

With clear language and a hint of urgency, the new Enlargement Strategy delivers a powerful massage reaffirming the enlargement perspective of the region and announcing enhanced EU engagement, while at the same time calling on all Western Balkan countries to redouble their efforts for completing their political, economic and social transformation. Calling it a “historic window of opportunity”, the European Commission calls on the governments to bring all stakeholders on board from across the political spectrum and from civil society, in order to address vital reforms and complete this transformation. For these processes, active involvement of empowered civil society and the existence of enabling environment for civil society is emphasized as crucial. It is noted that the European Commission will encourage appropriate engagement from all levels of government, social partners and civil society in the initiatives aimed to support employment and social policy in the region. That said, it fails to encourage overall civil society’s involvement in all the other initiatives,

Civil society remains to be firmly set as one of the four pillars of Democracy, as part of the Political Criteria for EU accession, presented in a separate section in each report. The Guidelines for EU Support to Civil Society in Enlargement Countries, 2014-2020, seem to be providing the backbone of the more in-depth understanding and monitoring of the conditions in which civil society activists and CSOs need to operate. However, the 2018 reports still do not provide clear progress (or a lack of it) against the Guidelines’ targets, and thus do not show concrete results and achievements of the Guidelines.

Read our full analysis here.

 

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