Regional Event on Strengthening the Rule of Law in the Western Balkans

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On 14 June 2021, BCSDN Executive Director Ms. Biljana Spasovska participated in the “Strengthening the Rule of Law in the Western Balkans: Old tools for new rules?” event organized by the Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis” (IDSCS), the Politikon Network (PIN) and the Center for Contemporary Politics (CSP).

The conference aimed to reflect on the democratic backsliding and the ongoing rule of law reform process in the Western Balkans’ candidate countries, address its challenges, and outline a new way ahead within the region and the EU itself. It also focused on the EU Commission’s new enlargement methodology for the Western Balkans and the status quo situation for the conditionality for the rule of law reform in the region.

The first speaker, Ms. Jovana Marović, Executive Director at Politikon Network, presented the mechanisms that the European Union used exclusively concerning the WB countries to implement reforms in the rule of law. Ms. Frosina Tasevska, State Secretary at Ministry of Justice, Government of North Macedonia, reflected on the progress made in the reform process in N. Macedonia and presented recommendations for further negotiations. Mr. Zoran Nechev, a member of BiEPAG, specified that instead of inventing certain criteria specific to WB countries, the existing mechanism for other countries should be applicable to assess their readiness to join the EU. Mr. Alban Dafa, Researcher on Governance and Security at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation, discussed the vetting process and the judicial reform in Albania. Mr. Nikola Burazer, Programme Director at Centre for Contemporary Politics, pointed out that new mechanisms, such as the New EU Methodology for the WB are a consequence of the actions (non) taken by Serbia and Montenegro during their negotiations with the EU. This consideration was also followed by Ms. Natali Petrovska, Executive Director at Coalition All for Fair Trials, adding that the existing mechanism used by the EU with WB countries is essential, but some changes must be made.

In her presentation, Ms. Biljana Spasovska focused on the civil society role in the EU integration process as a responsibility of both governments of the candidate countries and the EU. She pointed out that civil society should be systematically involved in planning, programming, implementing, and monitoring of the accession reforms. She also noted that the EU should be an example of inclusive civil society dialogue, recognized by the meaningful involvement of the civil society for achieving sustainable socio-economic development of the region.

The event concluded that besides the fact that the ongoing mechanisms used by the European Union could generate lasting positive changes in the region, all the stakeholders should do a lot more in regards to the rule of law and the overall state of democracy in the countries.

Source: BCSDN/ European Western Balkans

Photo credit: European Western Balkans

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