To open negotiations with everyone and to respect the autonomy of civil society

Daliborka Uljarević, Executive director of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), spoke on the Civil Society Forum EU – Balkans, which finished today in Paris, within the workshop on democratic governance.

Among other issues, Uljarević assessed that «the erosion of democratic standards in Western Balkans is followed by newer, more subtle pressures on critically-oriented parts of civil sector». She also stated that «the autonomy of work of civil society organisations is often annulled because of the arbitrary decision-making of political parties, which stultifies the participation of non-governmental organisations in working bodies and councils, which is further followed by smear campaigns against the activists of civil society, even though these change their form». In addition, she recommended that the next Forum, which will be held in Rome 2017, focuses on the issues of reconciliation in region and initiatives which result in comprehensive and effective dealing with the past, thereby referring to the Initiative for the establishment of RECOM as the most significant one.

One of the important recommendations from this workshop was to open the negotiations on chapter 23 and 24 with every Western Balkan state, which is in the process of accession, in order to give an incentive to reforms, because the participants estimated through the example of Montenegro that negotiations contribute in the opening of numerous important questions and that this form of mobilisation is very important for Western Balkan societies.

During this year’s Civil Society Forum in Paris they discussed on topics from the area of policies marked as priorities: migrations, climate change, bilateral disputes, youth cooperation, as well as the democratic governance, with an emphasis on the role of civil society and respect of fundamental rights. Forum gathered about 100 activists and representatives of civil society from EU and Western Balkans for the purpose of formulation of recommendation for the future of European project and integration of Western Balkan states. The objective of the Forum is to establish a permanent process of dialogue of civil society and cooperation among Western Balkan states and Europe.

This Forum was organised on the occasion of third interstate summit of Western Balkan states and European Union which was held in Paris today as well, and it is the continuation of Civil Society Forum held in Vienna in 2015.

Civil Society Forum is coordinated by European alternatives, ERSTE Stiftung, European Fund for Balkans, Friedrich Ebert Stifntung, Citizens for Europe and Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation.

Svetlana Pešić, programme associate