Activities

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REACTION TO BRDO SUMMIT

BETWEEN BROKEN PROMISES AND REALPOLITIK: WHAT FUTURE FOR THE WESTERN BALKANS?

Reaction to Brdo Summit by civil society actors in the Western Balkans

25 October 2021

We, the undersigned civil society actors applaud the Declaration, statements and remarks made by the leaders of the European Union (EU), EU Member States and Western Balkans (WB) at the EU-WB Brdo Summit on 6 October 2021.

We fully support the restated commitments made by the EU with respect to the enlargement process and its determination for the decisions to be based on credible reforms by WB countries, fair and rigorous conditionality and the principle of own merits. Similarly, we support the commitments by the WB leaders with respect to democracy, rule of law, human rights, fight against corruption and organized crime, gender equality and the rights of minorities.

We especially appreciate the EU support for the WB countries reaffirmed commitment to inclusive regional cooperation and strengthening good neighbourly relations, including with EU Member States. And the emphasis on empowered civil society and independent and pluralistic media as crucial components of any democratic system, particularly given the worrying trends of shrinking space for both.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a significant mark on our societies and economies, which makes us deeply grateful to the EU Member states who stood by the WB by providing health and socio-economic support including by adopting an Economic and Investment Plan for the region. Also, prompt and efficient implementation of the recently launched Innovation Agenda for the WB will likely create further opportunities for the youth, and help address the brain drain as one of the most challenging issues the region is faced with.

We commend the WB leaders for acknowledging that decisive efforts are required to foster reconciliation and regional stability, as well as to find and implement definitive, inclusive and binding solutions to bilateral disputes and issues rooted in the legacy of the past. However, we are still witnessing raising ultra-nationalism, hateful rhetoric, democratic decline, rise of authoritarian tendencies and hybrid attacks on democracy throughout the region. We are also disappointed that the WB leaders did not fulfill their 2014 pledges to remove all the barriers to freedom of movement of people, such as the visa regime between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, and the obstacles to travel between Kosovo and Serbia.

At the same time, the EU has failed once again to deliver on its promises made to the WB countries such as starting the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia and providing visa liberalization for Kosovo, despite the progress made by the former and all of the visa liberalization benchmarks fulfilled by the latter. By not delivering on its promises, the EU is seriously undermining its credibility in the WB and the trust and hopes that citizens in the region have placed in the EU.

Almost 20 years after the Thessaloniki Summit, the EU integration prospects for the WB countries seem more unclear, and region’s future more insecure. Whereas heightened tensions within and between the WB countries are a clear evidence that the situation can rapidly escalate and lead to violence. Such a situation provides opportunities for various actors in the region and outside of it to exploit the shortcomings to consolidate their influence and agendas which may undermine peace and prosperity of the region and of the EU.

The stakes are high. The EU Project needs the WB, and we want to enter the EU family. The citizens of the WB are the ones that most benefit from becoming part of the EU family and the ones that directly suffer from broken promises and from our governments’ failures. Failing to make the EU integration of the WB a strategic priority followed by convincing evidence that go beyond the repeated commitments will expose the region to further threats and vulnerabilities, and will very likely lead to citizens in the WB countries losing faith. In which case it will become irrelevant whether broken promises and limited progress or whether citizens in the region were ill-informed, placed high hopes or had false expectations with regards to EU’s role in the WB and/or EU integration prospects for the region.

We, the undersigned, are united by the shared desire for peace and stability in our region and a common interest in taking our place in the EU family. We are here to turn words into action, and committed to working with WB governments, EU institutions and EU Member States to fulfill the aspiration of the citizens of the region – the full integration of WB countries in the EU.

The EU and its Member States should fulfill their promises made to the WB citizens. WB countries should fulfill their pledges made for years. WB citizens deserve a more promising future 

Signatories alphabetically:

1. Albanian Center for Good Governance (ACGG), Albania

2. ALFA Centar, Montenegro

3. Arjeta Maka, civil society activist, Kosovo

4. Asocijacija za promociju poslovanja (APROPO), Bosnia and Herzegovina

5. Association for Democratic Prosperity (ADP– Zid), Montenegro

6. Avdyl Gashi, civil society activist, Kosovo

7. Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN), Republic of North Macedonia

8. Balkan Green Foundation (BGF), Kosovo

9. Build Green Group, Albania

10. Building Blocks for Success (B.E.N. NGO), Kosovo

11. Center for Advocacy and Democratic Development (CADD), Serbia

12. Center for Democratic Transition (CDT), Montenegro

13. Center for Economic Prosperity and Freedom (CEPS), Montenegro

14. Center for Education and Gathering (COD), Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina

15. Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS), Serbia

16. Center for Political Courage (CPC), Kosovo

17. CIVIL, Republic of North Macedonia

18. Community Business Development Center (CBDC), Kosovo

19. Debate Center, Kosovo

20. European Movement in Serbia (EMinS), Serbia

21. Fondacija za Razvoj i Demokraciju (FRD), Bosnia and Herzegovina

22. Forum MNE, Montenegro

23. Gender Alliance for Development Centre (GADC), Albania

24. Global Shapers Community Prishtina, Kosovo

25. GUIDKES-Kosovo Tourist Guides Association, Kosovo

26. HandiKOS, Kosovo

27. Humanity in Action, Bosnia and Herzegovina

28. iACT, Montenegro

29. Initiative for Progress (INPO), Kosovo

30. Institute for Democracy and Development (IDD), Republic of North Macedonia

31. Institute for Development Policy (INDEP), Kosovo

32. Institute for Project Management and Development (IPMR), Republic of North Macedonia

33. Institute for Territorial Economic Development (InTER), Serbia

34. Instituti per Zhvillim dhe Integrim (IZHI), Kosovo

35. International Debate Education Association (IDEA), Republic of North Macedonia

36. Kosovo Law Institute (KLI), Kosovo

37. Kosovo Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (KYATA), Kosovo

38. Krenar Shala, civil society activist, Kosovo

39. Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), Serbia

40. LGBT Forum Progress, Montenegro

41. LGBTIQ Social Center, Montenegro

42. Mirjana Maslovar, civil society activist, Montenegro

43. Mitrovica Women Association for Human Rights, Kosovo

44. Montenegro Film Festival, Montenegro

45. NGO 4 LIFE, Montenegro

46. NGO AKTIV, Kosovo 

47. NGO Be Active 16, Serbia

48. NGO Department of Inclusion, Serbia

49. NGO The Future, Serbia

50. OJQ “Gruaja Hyjore” Gjilan, Kosovo

51. OJQ Qendra e Gruas “ATO” Vushtrri, Kosovo

52. OJQ VISION 02, Kosovo

53. OTTOnomy, Albania

54. People In Need – The Western Balkan Office

55. Protection and promotion of Environment, Culture and Art (proECA), Kosovo

56. Qualitative Institute for Researches, Analysis and Trainings "iCHAT", Kosovo

57. Research Center for Security, Defense and Peace (ICBOM), Republic of North Macedonia

58. Romska Nada, Bosnia and Herzegovina

59. Shoqata "Iniciativa e Pavarur e të Verbërve", Kosovo

60. Shoqata Iniciativa e Grave, Dragash, Kosovo

61. Shoqata Kulturore "Dituria", Serbia

62. Social Workers Organization of Kosovo

63. SUBVERSIVE FRONT, Republic of North Macedonia

64. The Balkan Forum

65. Valon Arifi, civil society activist, Serbia

66. Women's Association Aureola, Kosovo

67. Xhejrane Lokaj, civil society activist, Kosovo

68. YOUNG INTELLECTUALS, HOPE (IRSH), Albania

69. Youth Center Drenas, Kosovo

70. Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) Kosovo

71. Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) Serbia

72. Youth Resource Center, Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Find below the downloadable/printable pdf REACTION and LETTER from Thomas HAGLEITNER Head of Unit NEAR D1: 

REACTION

LETTER NEAR D1

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Mon, 25 Oct 2021
Venue:
Western Balkans
Facilitator:
The BF
Summary:
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We, the undersigned citizens, are urging the governments of the Western Balkans’ countries and the European Union (EU) Member State leaders to act swiftly in abolishing the visa regimes and establishing the freedom of movement for all Western Balkan citizens travelling within the region and throughout the Schengen Area.

The existing barriers to freedom of movement within the region and throughout the Schengen Area have been breaking family ties, harming businesses, inhibiting student and academic exchange, and preventing regional cooperation and development.

The movement of Western Balkans' citizens inside the region continues to be challenging due to passport restrictions, as in the case of travelling between Kosovo and Serbia, as well as between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Governments need to understand that roads, tunnels and railways will not serve the Western Balkan countries fully unless provisions are facilitating the free movement of people inside the region.

Similarly, opportunities for the Western Balkans' citizens are much more limited when it comes to contributing to and benefiting from regional projects but also to larger EU programs which have proven to be beneficial for students, researchers and young entrepreneurs - such as the Erasmus+ Program, which has been offering life-changing experiences to EU citizens for more than three decades. When such opportunities are present, they tend to be available only to people in the Western Balkan region whose passport allows them to travel more easily, without going through the lengthy and costly procedures of acquiring a Schengen visa.

Visa liberalisation benefiting the five Western Balkan countries since 2009 has been the biggest incentive to the economic development of the region. After the introduction of visa liberalisation for the Western Balkans, the trade of the region with the EU increased almost two and a half times.

However, citizens of Kosovo remain the only ones in the region that need a visa to travel to the Schengen Area. Despite the fact that in 2018, the European Commission confirmed that Kosovo had fulfilled all the benchmarks of the visa liberalisation roadmap, and the European Parliament has voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal, the latter is still pending in the European Council.

The authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia should work together to urgently resolve visa regimes and passport restrictions. The EU should take a responsible role and preserve its credibility in the region by delivering on its promises given to Kosovo citizens and grant visa liberalisation to Kosovo this year.

By granting visa liberalization to all citizens of the Western Balkan region, the EU would be fulfilling its promise, and delivering on its core value - the freedom of movement.

Sign petition HERE 

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Sat, 18 Sep 2021
Venue:
Western Balkans
Facilitator:
The BF
Summary:
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Conference: Visa Regimes No More: Time To Put People First

“Visa Regimes No More: Time to Put People First” is a continuation of the collective efforts aimed at addressing the serious obstacles to the freedom of movement for people in the Western Balkans and in the Schengen area.

The conference program is organized into two panel discussions:

Panel 1: Visa Liberalization: Genuine Motivation or a Dead Letter?

Panel 2: Young People and Mobility Beyond Borders

The conference tackles the restrictions to freedom of movement of people that have been breaking family ties, inhibiting student and academic exchange, harming businesses and preventing regional cooperation. And, what actions are necessary to urgently address such obstacles so that ordinary citizens could cooperate, develop and prosper.

Conference speakers include: Dukagjin Gorani, Gerlad Knaus, Sabina Cudic, Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel, Vlora Citaku, Andjela Micanovic, Blazhen Maleski, Egzona Bokshi and Ivan Djuric.

WATCH CONFERENCE

The regional conference is part of a series organized by the Balkan Forum and members of the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights (CSP), which bring together elected representatives and officials, civil society organizations and actors from the region and the EU, as well as youth activists from the six countries of the Western Balkans, and Members of the European Parliament.

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Wed, 15 Sep 2021
Venue:
Prishtina, Kosovo
Facilitator:
CSP, The BF
Summary:
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The Balkan Forum and CIVIL hold a regional conference on “Attacks on democracy and human rights”

On July 28 2021, The Balkan Forum, CIVIL and members of the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights, held a regional conference titled “Attacks on democracy and human rights: Civil society organizations in support of Western Balkans societies facing disinformation, hate speech and hybrid attacks”.

Organised into two panel discussions, the conference tackled the issue of disinformation and how it disrupts the public discourse and encourages hate speech and insulting rhetoric, including the issue of hybrid attacks and their posing threats to democracies.

Prominent speakers shared their knowledge, opinions and expertise at the European, regional and national level on the most common types and sources of disinformation, hate speech and hybrid attacks. They shared their views on how institutions and societies are coping with these issues and best practices proven to be successful in dealing with these phenomena. Speakers included Dr. Wolfgang Ressmann, Managing Director of OK-TV Ludwigshafen, Germany, Abit Hoxha, from University of Adger in Norway, Nenad Šebek, a journalist and media expert, Amina Šurković, Amina Šemsović, Dr. Erjon Curraj, Jean Monnet Module Coordinator, Vladimir Gjorgjevski, representative of “Regional Youth Cooperation Office - RYCO”, Mersiha Smajlovikj, representative of “Legis”, Marion Kraske, political analyst, Bojan Kordalov, communicologist, Snezhana Trpveska, representative of RESIS, Xhabir Deralla, Director of CIVIL, and Astrit Istrefi, Executive Director of The Balkan Forum.

WATCH THE CONFERENCE

It was emphasized that disinformation, hate speech, and hybrid attacks remain elementary threats to critical thinking, freedom of media, and media literacy which are crucial for the integration and democratic development of the region.

A key conclusion of the conference was that in order to diminish threats to democracies all levels of the society should be doing their work including public institutions, civil society and media.

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Wed, 28 Jul 2021
Venue:
Skopje, North Macedonia
Facilitator:
CIVIL, The BF, CSP
Summary:
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REQUEST TO THE EU MEMBER STATES AND WB LEADERS:
ENABLE THE FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FOR ALL THE WESTERN BALKAN CITIZENS

5 July 2021 

We, the undersigned organisations and individuals from the Western Balkans and European Union are urging the WB6 governments and the European Union Member State leaders to act swiftly in abolishing the visa regimes and establishing the freedom of movement for all Western Balkan citizens travelling within the region and throughout the Schengen area.

The existing barriers to freedom of movement within the region and throughout the Schengen area have been breaking family ties, harming businesses, inhibiting student and academic exchange, and preventing regional cooperation and development.

The movement of WB6 citizens inside the region continues to be challenging due to passport restrictions, as in the case of travelling between Kosovo and Serbia, as well as between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Governments need to understand that roads, tunnels and railways will not serve WB6 countries fully unless provisions are facilitating the free movement of people, goods and services inside the region.

Similarly, opportunities for WB6 citizens are much more limited when it comes to contributing to and benefiting from regional projects but also to larger EU programs which have proven to be beneficial for students, researchers and young entrepreneurs - such as the Erasmus+ Program - offering life-changing experiences to EU citizens. When such opportunities are present, they tend to be available only to people in the Western Balkan region whose passport allows them to travel more easily, without going through the lengthy and costly procedures of acquiring a Schengen visa.

Passport restrictions and visa regimes within the region are significant obstacles that have to be resolved urgently. The upcoming Western Balkan Summit in Berlin is a major opportunity for abolishing the visa regime and enabling the freedom of movement in the region.

Exploring the potential of human capital within the Berlin Process has been vital, which enabled the involvement of youth and civil society as promoters of social change and seen as an investment in people’s mobility. EU support has often been missing this social aspect, which can have a meaningful and sustainable impact on citizens and societies.

Visa liberalisation benefiting the five Western Balkan countries since 2009 was the biggest incentive to the economic development of the region. After the introduction of the visa liberalisation for the Western Balkans, the trade of the region with the EU increased almost two and a half times.

However, citizens of Kosovo remain the only ones in the region that need a visa to travel to the Schengen area. Despite the fact that in 2018, the European Commission confirmed that Kosovo had fulfilled all the benchmarks of the visa liberalisation roadmap, and the European Parliament has voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal, the latter is still pending in the European Council.

The EU should take a responsible role and preserve its credibility in the region by delivering on its promises given to Kosovo citizens and grant visa liberalisation to Kosovo this year. By granting visa liberalisation to all citizens of the Western Balkan region, the EU would be fulfilling on its promise, and delivering on its core value - the freedom of movement.

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Signatories alphabetically:

1. Afrim Maliqi, Director of HANDIKOS - Association of paraplegics and paralysed children of Kosovo
2. Agim Qehaja, Human Care, Kosovo
3. Albana Hoti, TROJA - Together Realizing Our Ambitions, Kosovo
4. Albana Veseli, Board Member of the Western Balkans Alumni Association, Kosovo
5. Albulena Nrecaj, Executive Director of the Initiative for Progress (INPO), Kosovo
6. Anida Šabanović, Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative BH, Bosnia and Herzegovina
7. Anto Janković, President of the Center for Economic Prosperity and Freedom – CEPS, Montenegro
8. Antonio Mihajlov, Senior Adviser at the Subversive Front, North Macedonia
9. Arben Hajrullahu, Executive Director of the Center for Political Courage, Kosovo
10. Arianit Jashari, Access, Kosovo
11. Arjeta Maka, Activist at the NGO "Divine Woman" NGO, Kosovo
12. Astrit Istrefi, Executive Director, The Balkan Forum
13. Aulonë Memeti, Executive Director of Admovere, Kosovo
14. Avdyl Gashi, Director of the Global Shapers Community Prishtina, Kosovo
15. Avni Dervishi, Head of Global Sector for Diaspora Power, Sweden
16. Azra Berbić, Program Coordinator at the Post-Conflict Research Center, Bosnia and Herzegovina
17. Bajram Ilazi, Executive Director of the Bashkimi Rinor E Ardhmja E Ndritur, Kosovo
18. Bashkim Ibishi, Director of the Advancing Together, Kosovo
19. Besjana Krasniqi, Omnes, Kosovo
20. Besmir Kokollari, Qualitative Institute for Researches, Analysis and Trainings "iCHAT", Kosovo
21. Branko Ćulibrk, Executive Director of the Centar za mlade "KVART", Bosnia and Herzegovina
22. Burim Ejupi, Executive Director of the Institute for Development Policy (INDEP), Kosovo
23. Cristoph Luettmann, Managing Director of the CSSP Berlin Center for Integrative Mediation, Germany
24. Damir Radeković, President of the Youth Center Vermont, Bosnia and Herzegovina
25. Diellorita Abazi, Executive Director of the Advocacy for Society Development-(AFSD), Kosovo
26. Dina Bajramspahić, Civil Society Activist, Montenegro
27. Dragana Dardić, Executive Director of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
28. Drita Shabani, MSc. in professional studies for public administration, Engineer of Architecture, Kosovo
29. Egzona Bokshi, Civil Society Activist, Kosovo
30. Emina Bošnjak, Executive Director of the Sarajevo Open Center, Bosnia and Herzegovina
31. Emina Kuhinja, Researcher at the Foreign Policy Initiative BH, Bosnia and Herzegovina
32. Emrah Cermjani, Executive Director of the Roma in Action NGO, Kosovo
33. Erblin Hoxha, Executive Director of the Debate Center, Kosovo
34. Erhard Busek, Chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, Austria
35. Fikrije Ferizi, Executive Director of the OJQ Qendra e Gruas “ATO”, Kosovo
36. Florian Bieber, Professor for Southeast European History and Politics at the University of Graz, Austria
37. Françeska Muço, Executive Director of the Young Professionals Network, Albanian Youth Representative in the Governing Board of RYCO, Albania
38. Frank Morawietz, Managing Director of the Crossborder Factory, Germany
39. Gani Rashiti, Executive Director of the Center for Advocacy and Democracy Development (CADD), Serbia
40. Genc Broqi, Programs Manager at the Roma Versitas, Kosovo
41. Goran Svilanović, Diplomat, Serbia
42. Hannes Swoboda, President of the International Institute for Peace, Austria
43. Igballe Hajdari, Executive Director of the "Divine Woman" NGO, Kosovo
44. Jadranka Milicevic, Executive Director of the CURE Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina
45. Jonida Mersinllari, Board Member of the Western Balkans Alumni Association, Albania
46. Klaudjo Kavaja, Board Member of the Western Balkans Alumni Association, Albania
47. Leila Bičakčić, Executive Director of the Center for Investigative Reporting, Bosnia and Herzegovina
48. Lejla Kusturica, Executive Director of the Atelier for Community Transformation – ACT, Bosnia and Herzegovina
49. Marigona Shabiu, Executive Director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Kosovo
50. Mario Mažić, Founding Partner of the Europe&Southeast Consultancy, Croatia
51. Mary Drosopulos, Post-doctoral Research Assistant; Founder and President of Eurobalkan Youth Forum, Greece
52. Marjola Memaj, Youth Activist & Trainee at the European Parliament, Albania
53. Mentor Boja, Social Worker at the Union of Kosova, Kosovo
54. Miloš Perović, Executive Director of the ALFA Centar, Montenegro
55. Miralem Tursinović, Director of the Youth Resource Center, Bosnia and Herzegovina
56. Mite Kuzevski, Foundation for debate and education IDEA Southeast Europe, North Macedonia
57. Naim Rashiti, Executive Director of the Balkans Policy Research Group, Kosovo
58. Randall Puljek-Shank, PhD, Bosnian-American Friendship Association, Bosnia and Herzegovina
59. Regjë Mulaj, Executive Director of the OJQ “VISION 02”, Kosovo
60. Remzije Duli, CEO at the Building Blocks For Success, Kosovo
61. Sabahudin Mujkić, Board Member of the Western Balkans Alumni Association, Bosnia and Herzegovina
62. Samir Agić, Executive Director of the Center for Education and Socialising (COD Jajce), Bosnia and Herzegovina
63. Sebastian Schäffer, Managing Director of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, Austria
64. Senada Šelo Šabić, Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia
65. Shukrije Gashi, Executive Director of the Partners-Kosova Center for Conflict Management
66. Silvia Nadjivan, Political Scientist and Author, Austria
67. Stephanie Fenkart, Director of the International Institute for Peace, Austria
68. Ulrike Lunacek, Vice-President of the European Citizens Forum and the former European Parliament‘s Vice-President and Rapporteur for Kosovo, Austria
69. Valon Arifi, Human Rights Activist, Serbia
70. Vebi Mujku, Executive Director of the Instituti për Zhvillimin e Politikave Sociale, Kosovo
71. Vedran Džihić, Senior Researcher at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, Austria
72. Vehbi Goxhuli, Executive Director, OJQ Gjeomjedisi, Kosovo
73. Veton Mujaj, Executive Director of the "Syri i Vizonit" NGO, Kosovo
74. Visar Azemi, Executive Director of the Balkan Green Foundation, Kosovo
75. Visar Haxhifazliu, Executive Director of the THY NGO, Kosovo
76. Visar Hoti, CEO at TV TEMA, Kosovo
77. Visare Berisha Shabani, Executive Director, Assist Kosovo Center – Assist, Kosovo
78. Xhabir Deralla, President of the Center for Freedom - CIVIL, North Macedonia

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Find below the downloadable/printable pdf file

REQUEST

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Mon, 5 Jul 2021
Venue:
Western Balkans
Facilitator:
The BF
Summary:
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Youth Policy Recommendations for the Sofia Summit

Western Balkans Six Youth Policy Recommendations
Date: Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Ahead of the upcoming Western Balkans (WB) Summit in Sofia, we the civil society actors from the WB region would like to commend the progress made so far by the WB6 governments’ within the Berlin Process toward empowering the youth and for pledging to undertake complementary measures to address youth unemployment, migration, and ‘brain drain’ in the Region. However, the absence of legally binding provisions within the Berlin Process, make it challenging to ensure follow-up action and hold governments accountable for not fulfilling their pledges. In addition, the WB6 governments’ efforts fall short in developing informed policies which would address inequality and benefit young people of all backgrounds in the Region. Such a goal could be achieved through giving youth a top priority in the Summit’s agenda, and through the development of Youth Policies to both alleviate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and advance the progress in empowering youth in the Region.

1. Increasing WB6 governments’ investment in youth as a way of mitigating the impact of the pandemic in the most vulnerable sections of the societies in the Region. Research by the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights (CSP) highlights that the outbreak of the pandemic exposed a Region which was completely vulnerable and unable to support its citizens. It also revealed the WB6 governments’ failure to invest in their biggest asset, human capital and particular youth. The World Bank Group fall report emphasizes that the Western Balkans are enduring severe recessions in 2020. This will continue to have massive impact in the most vulnerable sections of the societies in the Region. However, the CSP report also reveals that the role of youth and the civil society in the WB6 has been essential in the management of the crisis. There have been many stories of individual or collective initiatives, often self-organised, which have covered institutional and technical gaps through self-invented, yet effective, solutions. Such examples include the use of social media in creative ways to spread information, dissolve scaremongering and fake news, provide help to vulnerable groups, and facilitate cooperation among the business sector and local authorities.

2. Addressing the needs of Bi-ethnic and Diaspora Youth. In the 21st century, many high-potential young people that have roots in the WB6 live in other countries, or have multiple citizenships. Working on programs designed to make the WB6 attractive as a place to study, live, or work (e.g., work subsidy programs, diaspora-hiring campaigns, etc.) is beneficial to the economic integration of the Region. Furthermore, such policies ensure that youth with ties to the Region feel that they are connected economically, culturally, and career-wise, not just through their ethnicity.

3. Addressing the needs of disabled and non-traditional youth. More policy work ought to be done to allow disabled youth to be integrated, and to ensure that youth focusing on non-traditional career pathways are supported in their endeavours. The cultural sector (e.g., Arts, philosophy, etc.) must be supported. This could include connecting young people with fewer opportunities in the Region with for example local Interreg IPA programmes and also harnessing the potential of the Interreg Volunteer Youth framework (IVY).

4. Having a unified effort on the linguistic education of WB6 youth. There needs to be a harmonized language policy that establishes a vision to ensure that WB6 youth are properly educated in international and local languages. This is likely to open up more opportunities for the young people, and encourage them to seek for education and employment opportunities within the Region.

5. Ensure that an intersectional lens is considered in all future policy work. Ensuring that policy gets created and reviewed from an intersectional lens allows for specified fixes to problems. Youth are not a monolith: Everyone is an individual and everyone is affected by policy differently due to their unique characteristics (e.g., personality, race, ethnicity, language, gender, sex, sexuality, et cetera). A youth policy should be divided into many sub-policies for different groups.

6. Support the creation of programmes which aim to unite universities across borders - such examples include Euroculture consortium, the Epicur alliance, or the Eucor campus. This would enhance cross-border contacts among youth, and such alliances may become attractive internationally.

Finally, of a paramount importance is for the governments’ to improve their public consultation with young people and to strengthen youth participation in local and national policy and decision-making processes.

Find below the downloadable/printable pdf: 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Wed, 4 Nov 2020
Venue:
Western Balkans
Facilitator:
CSP, The BF
Summary:
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Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights  - Recommendations for the Sofia Summit

Western Balkans Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights

3 November 2020

As we approach the Sofia Summit scheduled to take place in November 2020, the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights (CSP) shares the key findings and recommendations from its research undertaken in 2020, focusing on the progress made by the WB6 governments towards fulfilling their pledges since London and Poznań Summits. The research is one of the actions taken within the CSP’s pledge to assuming greater responsibility for monitoring the Berlin Process agendas, holding the WB Six (WB6) governments accountable for implementing recommendations from the Berlin Process Summits and meeting EU integration criteria.

Findings point to the direction that despite existing challenges and gaps, the Berlin Process as a whole has had a considerable positive impact on the Region. It has managed to redirect the focus of the EU back on the WB6 countries and start a high-level dialogue on equal terms between EU-WB6 leaders, reviving the region’s declining interest in EU integration. It has placed the Region on a stable position on the EU infrastructure map, united the regional civil society under joint causes, and highlighted the role of citizens and youth in promoting dialogue and social change. It has also brought the issue of reconciliation and transitional justice back on the table, raising it as a matter not only of regional but also international importance, as emphasised within the proceedings of the 2020 Zagreb Summit.

Evidence shows, however, that specific factors are slowing down or discouraging progress: 

- In many cases, there is political ambition, but no genuine will;

- Specific pledges made in the field of security and the fight against organised crime have been unrealistic in the way they were initially planned, in terms of both time and capacity;

- Entrenched habits, stereotypes and obsolete mentalities of ‘doing things’ get in the way of achieving progress and interregional cooperation;

- The Berlin Process has no built-in steering and monitoring mechanism and hosting member states, ad hoc, have no authority to act in an oversight capacity. While it is possible to a certain extent to assess the technical and economic progress made within the Berlin Process, it is extremely difficult to evaluate social change;

- There is a lack of clarity on how the ‘stocktaking’ of each Summit takes place and how previous Summits inform the agendas of the forthcoming Summits;

- The outbreak of the pandemic exposed a Region which was completely vulnerable and unable to support its citizens. 

As the Sofia Summit is the 7th annual gathering, what is expected from the WB countries is to take the necessary steps to move the Berlin Process forward by translating pledges into concrete action. In order to step up the reputation and importance of these summits, the focus must shift to issues regarding, monitoring and visibility, commitment and responsibility, and consistency. Therefore, we request the 2020 Sofia Summit Agenda include:

• The implementation of a Monitoring and Visibility Framework to compare and classify whether WB6 governments are holding up to their pledges;

• A shift to legally binding pledges to bolster the Commitment as well as taking Responsibility for the promises being made. Even if this results in a slower pace of progress as WB6 countries scale down their more ambitious commitments. The results may be more concrete than previously seen;

• Consistency is a key factor in the success and viability of the Berlin Process. WB6 governments should refrain from engaging in contradicting actions of sabotaging each other’s progress which do not serve the spirit of good neighbourly relations, cooperation, and peace. The recent flares of nationalist rhetoric across the region only serve to divide the societies and stifle progress being made towards EU integration;

• At a time when the COVID-19 is continuing to have massive impact in the most vulnerable sections of the societies in the Region, the WB6 governments should step up joint efforts to alleviate the negative socioeconomic impact of the crisis, and to build more just, sustainable and democratic societies.

Find below the downloadable/printable pdf version of the recommendations and reply by the Commissioner Varhelyi:

RECOMMENDATIONS

REPLY BY COMMISSIONER VARHELYI

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Tue, 3 Nov 2020
Venue:
Western Balkans
Facilitator:
CSP, The BF
Summary:
MORE
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The research is one of the actions taken within the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights pledge to conduct ongoing assessments and evaluation of progress made by the Western Balkans (WB) countries towards implementing their commitments since the WB Summits in London and Poznań held in 2018 and 2019, as part of the Berlin Process launched in 2014. It aims to map good practices, but also challenges and existing gaps, and use lessons learnt as a basis for the creation of new strategies and mechanisms, as foreseen by the Berlin Process Summit Recommendations.

Findings point to the direction that despite existing challenges and gaps, the Berlin Process as a whole has had a considerable positive impact on the Region. It has managed to redirect the focus of the EU back on the Western Balkans Six (WB6) countries and start a high-level dialogue on equal terms between EU-WB6 leaders, reviving the region’s declining interest in EU integration. It has placed the Region on a stable position on the EU infrastructure map, united the regional civil society under joint causes, and highlighted the role of citizens and youth in promoting dialogue and social change. It has also brought the issue of reconciliation and transitional justice back on the table, raising it as a matter not only of regional but also international importance, as emphasised within the proceedings of the 2020 Zagreb Summit.

Overall, since the London Summit in 2018, the WB6 countries have been taking small, yet positive steps towards the implementation of their pledges defined in the chairs’ conclusions and Summits’ declarations. Evidence shows, however, that specific factors are slowing down or discouraging progress.

For more on the findings and recommendations, please find the web version below: 

https://thebalkanforum.org/en/berlin-process-overview-of-the-progress-by-the-six-western-balkans-countries-since-london-and-poznan-summits

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Tue, 15 Sep 2020
Venue:
Civil Society Platform
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum
Summary:
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Joint statement by the civil society actors from the Western Balkans on COVID-19 pandemic

29 April 2020

As the coronavirus continues to spread across our countries and regions, we are all concerned about the severe consequences of the pandemic on our daily lives, as well as about the long-term impact of the crisis. We, the civil society actors from the Western Balkans, stand united and determined to continue joint efforts with local, national, regional and international actors both to alleviate the negative socioeconomic impact of the crisis, and to build more just, sustainable and democratic societies.

Place:
Western Balkans region
Date:
Wed, 29 Apr 2020
Venue:
The Balkan Forum
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum
Summary:
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Members of the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights discuss the impact of and responses to COVID-19 throughout the Western Balkans region:

- Implications for our economies, societies, public health;

- Pros and Cons of generic vs targeted approaches, and how structured, coordinated and effective are the current efforts of different actors to human rights and the needs of different communities (private sector, civil society, media, ethnic and vulnerable groups);

- How do we get more clarity and adequate responses from the governments and other actors during these uncertain times with COVID-19, to aid and address the implications for:

i) the private sector;

ii) the unemployed and people losing jobs;

iii) payment of taxes (income, pensions, property, etc.), and of utility bills (electricity, water, waste, heating); loans, fees and interests by banks; at a time when people are not working.

- How will the ‘day after’ look like? What will be the needs and priorities, and how do we prepare ourselves (adapt to and respond) to a different environment?

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Wed, 8 Apr 2020
Venue:
The Balkan Forum
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum
Summary:
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Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights is undertaking research on the Western Balkans Summits part of the Berlin Process. The research focuses on the progress made by WB countries towards implementing their pledges/commitments since the London and Poznań Summits held in 2018 and 2019. Findings will be shared in April/May 2020.

Place:
Western Balkans
Date:
Wed, 5 Feb 2020
Venue:
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum
Summary:
MORE
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Ahead of the Poznan Summit to take place 3 -5 July 2019, the Western Balkans Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights (CSP), shared with the key actors in the region, the following Manifesto. The organisation and functioning of the CSP, and the common position built on important issues since the London Summit, including on the Berlin Process and Annual Summits, serve as a model - and a clear demonstration of our commitment - to advancing dialogue, reconciliation and accountability in our region.   

Manifesto for Poznan and Beyond: Dialogue, Reconciliation, and Accountability

The Berlin Process, created to support Western Balkan countries on their path to EU integration, includes the provision to empower civil society to hold our governments accountable for agreements they make at the yearly summits.

Despite these good intentions, our governments have shown little progress towards implementing their Berlin Process commitments. Each year, our governments’ pledge to end corruption and establish the rule of law. But, according to the Chairs’ Conclusions of the Heads Meeting at the London Summit, serious and organized crime, corruption, money laundering, and financial crime remain among our most significant security threats. Clearly, then, all stakeholders involved in the Berlin Process need to develop new strategies to make our governments responsible for actually doing what, at each summit, they promise to do. Civil society must play a primary role as the citizens of the Western Balkans are the ones that most benefit from becoming part of the European Union family and the ones that directly suffer from our governments’ failures.

The Western Balkans Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights is an independently organized regional consortium that is working across borders to tackle the serious problems we are facing. Our network is united, not by projects or funding, but by the shared desire for peace and stability in our region and a common interest in taking our place in the EU family. As a citizens’ movement, we have already extended our networks beyond simply NGOs to include individuals with important skills, expertise, and knowledge necessary to our mission. With members from every country in the Western Balkans, we are proof that the citizens of the Western Balkans have already reconciled from past conflicts.  Unfortunately, this is not reflected in the increasingly nationalistic rhetoric of our governments.  

When our governments have failed to realize the dream of democracy, it falls to us, the people of the Western Balkans, to lead the way helping our governments develop functional, stable states where accountability and rule of law prevail. Despite our many differences and past conflicts, we all share a common history that has as much potential to unite us as it does to divide us. 

To realize our dream of democracy, we request that the 2019 Poznan Summit Agenda include:

  • A Presentation on Dialogue and Reconciliation as a starting point for defining our common interests and developing regional relationships that allow us to coordinate our joint initiatives;
  • The commitment to define new and creative structures and mechanisms that can more effectively support cross-sector collaborations that promote democracy, rule of law, transparent and accountable governments, and human rights; 
  • The commitment to support a civil society progress report on governments’ compliance with Berlin Process Summit Recommendations.

The European Union Project needs the Western Balkans, and we want to enter the EU family.  At a critical geopolitical moment, thinking beyond the Berlin Process, we need to collaboratively evolve our concrete actions and joint commitment that can unite Europe into an extended family that brings stability and security for all of us.  We are here to take up this work: to turn words into action and to help our governments fulfill their commitments, not just to the Berlin Process Pledges, but to evolving a shared world of peace and prosperity for all. 

Place:
Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia)
Date:
Thu, 6 Jun 2019
Venue:
Western Balkans
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum
...

Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights - Poll 

Dear all,

We are conducting an online Poll with a broad spectrum of civil society actors in the Western Balkans with the aim to get input from as a diverse audience as possible, so please disseminate this and ask input from your colleagues/other civil society, experts and other actors in your countries/WB region.

Why the Poll now?
At the Regional Conference “Civil Society Contribution in Berlin Process and EU Integration: A Positive Agenda Focused on Action”, (https://thebalkanforum.org/en/civil-society-contribution-in-berlin-process-and-eu-integration-a-positive-agenda-focused-on-action) held in Tirana on 21 – 22 March 2019, the participants agreed a number of key action points. An online poll has been among them which aims to solicit input from a broad spectrum of civil society actors in the Western Balkans on the following: 1) progress, or lack thereof, by six countries of the Western Balkans since the Western Balkans Summit in London held in July 2018, against the pledges that governments have made, and, 2) priority issues that civil society actors in the Western Balkans would want to put on the Western Balkans Summit agenda scheduled to take place in Poznan, Poland in early July 2019.

In preparation for the summit, we are asking all civil society organizations and independent activists, irrespective of whether or not you are a signatory to the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights (https://www.civilsocietyplatform.org/), to complete this short poll asking for your input on priority issues to put on the Summit Agenda.

The Poll is anonymous, hence all responses will be kept strictly confidential. Your input will only be used in combination with the responses of others participating in the Poll.

Your input is valuable to us and we thank you for your participation!

Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights

The poll is open from 22 April and ends on 5 May 2019. To complete the poll, please click the following link: https://forms.gle/jk7Dc7yhfVwvuDHX9 

Place:
Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia)
Date:
Mon, 22 Apr 2019
Venue:
Western Balkans - Online Poll
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum
...

The first regional CSP conference took place in Tirana, Albania, on 21 - 22 March 2019, entitled “Civil Society Contribution in Berlin Process and EU Integration: A Positive Agenda Focused on Action”. This has been a very productive conference where around 60 participants representing CSOs in WB6, as well as diplomatic presence and media in Albania, including Ambassadors, Attaches, and representatives of diplomatic presence (reps. of Embassy of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, State of Palestine, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland), Western Balkans Fund (WBF), and Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), engaged in a lively discussion, on civil society contribution in the Berlin Process and EU integration. Participants agreed a number of action points including undertaking research on the progress since the London Summit and drafting a Manifesto that will represent a common civil society position in the Western Balkans Summit scheduled to take place in Poznan, Poland in early July 2019. Ambassador of Poland in Tirana, who attended the entire event on 22 March 2019, provided valuable contribution/advice in the conference.

Place:
Albania
Date:
Fri, 22 Mar 2019
Venue:
Hotel Opera, Tirana
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum and Albanian Center for Good Governance
...

Members of the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights will come together in Tirana, Albania, on 21 to 22 March for the first Regional Meeting of the CSP to follow-up on country meetings, advance the platform's structure and prepare for the Western Balkan Summit in Poznan.

Place:
Albania
Date:
Thu, 21 Mar 2019
Venue:
Hotel Opera
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum; Albanian Center for Good Governance
...

The BF & OTTOnomy meeting in Tirana with German Embassy representative

Place:
Albania
Date:
Wed, 12 Dec 2018
Venue:
German Embassy - Tirana
Facilitator:
The BF & OTTOnomy
...

APROPO & FRD meeting in Sarajevo with UK Embassy representatives

Place:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Date:
Tue, 11 Dec 2018
Venue:
UK Embassy - Sarajevo
Facilitator:
APROPO & FRD
...

APROPO & FRD meeting in Sarajevo with EU Delegation representatives

Place:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Date:
Tue, 11 Dec 2018
Venue:
EU Delegation - Sarajevo
Facilitator:
APROPO & FRD
...

The Balkan Forum & EMinS meeting in Belgrade with US Embassy representative

Place:
Serbia
Date:
Mon, 10 Dec 2018
Venue:
Belgrade
Facilitator:
The BF & EMinS
...

On November 11-12, 2018 members of the CSP participated in the conference held in Arad, Romania, entitled “Western Balkans and Romania’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union” organized by Center for Balkan Strategies (CBS) and Aurel Vlaicu University. The aim of this conference was to discuss expectations, opportunities and challenges particularly to the EU integration of the WB, enhancing mutual understanding and collaborative efforts to advance reforms, cooperation and good neighborly relations.

Place:
Romania
Date:
Sun, 11 Nov 2018
Venue:
Aurel Vlaicu University
Facilitator:
CBS & Aurel Vlaicu University
...

The NGO Subversive Front welcomed other NGOs in their office in Skopje, Macedonia, for a country meeting of the Civil Society Platform on the 17th of October.

Place:
Macedonia
Date:
Wed, 17 Oct 2018
Venue:
Subversive Front's office
Facilitator:
Subversive Front
...

Representatives of NGO's in Kosovo came together on Monday, 15th of October, in the rooms of the ICK in Prishtina, for a country meeting of the Civil Society Platform.

Place:
Kosovo
Date:
Mon, 15 Oct 2018
Venue:
Innovation Centre Kosovo
Facilitator:
The Balkan Forum
...

On Monday, 15th of October, Albanian signatories to the Civil Society Platform gathered for a country meeting at the Albanian Center for Good Governance in Tirana.

Place:
Albania
Date:
Mon, 15 Oct 2018
Venue:
Albanian Center for Good Governance
Facilitator:
Albanian Center for Good Governance
...

The first country meeting of the Civil Society Platform was held at the premises of the Association for Democratic Prosperity in Podgorica, Montenegro. 

Place:
Montenegro
Date:
Wed, 10 Oct 2018
Venue:
ZID
Facilitator:
ALFA Centar