WESTERN BALKANS – On the eve of the EU-Western Balkans summit in Zagreb, where leaders of EU Member States and Western Balkan states will meet under the Croatian Presidency of the EU Council to discuss a new perspective for World Bank states to become EU members on May 6. , Croatian civil society, under the coordination of CROSOL, and NGOs in the region decided to convey the message of civil society to leaders through the CSO Declaration at the Zagreb EU-Western Balkans Summit “With or without ( E)U? to ensure that CSO voices are included.
More than 90 leading CSOs in their declaration call on the heads of state or government of the European Union Member States and Western Balkan countries to intensify and accelerate the negotiation and implementation of reforms in as part of the process of alignment with the Community acquis, in particular in the areas of fundamental rights and freedoms, the judiciary, the rule of law and democratic institutions.
“Western Balkan countries should commit to truly implementing reforms to achieve lasting institutional and social change, while the European Union should evaluate progress according to principles. Particular attention should be paid to strengthening cooperation between countries regarding the fate of missing persons, strengthening cooperation and increasing the effectiveness of prosecutions for war crimes, and supporting other initiatives of transitional justice, especially those emanating from civil society, such as RECOM,” the statement read, affirming that this is one of the prerequisites for building trust between states and societies in the Balkans Westerners.
It is added that at the same time, any delay or postponement on the part of the EU in dealing with issues of rule of law, human rights and democracy within its Member States has extremely serious consequences. negative on the democratization process of all Western Balkan countries and that, as a result, they expect the EU to demonstrate its commitment to its fundamental values – not only through symbolic general declarations, but also through concrete actions.
CSOs also expect the EU to urge and support the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities to quickly implement the 14 priorities of the European Commission opinion published in May 2019.
“As part of an open and consultative process with civil society and the EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina should adopt a new action plan for the implementation of the priorities in the opinion of the EC in order to target and focus on issues related to the building of democracy, establishing the rule of law and the protection of human rights. The EU should send a clear message that candidate status is possible, achievable and conditional on Bosnia and Herzegovina taking concrete steps in implementing the 14 priorities of the EC opinion,” adding that Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot be left behind in the European integration process of the Western Balkans, but must show commitment and implement reforms as part of this process.
The declarations stipulate that the EU should enter into genuine cooperation with civil society organizations in the Western Balkan countries in the design and implementation of reforms, and support CSOs, both financially and politically, in their efforts to support reforms to democracy and the rule of law.
“The European Union should continue to rely on information from civil society organizations when assessing the effects of reforms and avoid any political trend that does not lead to constructive debate at national level and with the reform process. enlargement of the EU. Simulations and pro forma proclamations of enlargement reforms, but without concrete and substantial changes implemented by governments, should be disclosed as such and politically condemned,” the Declaration reads.
It is also indicated that Western Balkan countries should be included as beneficiaries of post-COVID-19 response programs aimed at economic and social recovery, and in particular in the European Green New Deal plans, because the role of civil society in alleviating the crisis should not be undermined, but rather facilitated and supported.
The role of CSOs in the EU enlargement process
Civil society organizations from the Western Balkans should be represented at the Conference on the Future of Europe, CSOs stressed in the declaration.