SCiDEV joins the Western Balkans Civil Society High-Level Conference "Continuing the Success Story of EU Enlargement – Bringing Benefits to the Western Balkans in Advance of Accession"

SCiDEV joins the Western Balkans Civil Society High-Level Conference “Continuing the Success Story of EU Enlargement – Bringing Benefits to the Western Balkans in Advance of Accession”

SCiDEV joins the Western Balkans Civil Society High-Level Conference "Continuing the Success Story of EU Enlargement – Bringing Benefits to the Western Balkans in Advance of Accession"

Ljubljana, May 24, 2024 – The Western Balkans Civil Society High-Level Conference, titled “Continuing the Success Story of EU Enlargement – Bringing Benefits to the Western Balkans in Advance of Accession,” brought together members of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), civil society representatives from the Western Balkans, and delegates from Slovenia. This significant event underscored the importance of sustained efforts to integrate the Western Balkans into the European Union.

SCiDEV’s expert, Erjon Curraj, participated in the conference, contributing to the discussions on enhancing civil society organizations’ (CSOs) role in the EU accession process, stressing three key points:

  • Support for Local Grassroots Organizations: Local grassroots entities, despite being deeply rooted in their communities, often lack the necessary expertise and resources. Medium and long-term training programs are essential to strengthen their capacity, while CSOs with more substantial capabilities can act as intermediaries in the short term.
  • Empowering Local Media and Promoting EU Values: Curraj highlighted the necessity of empowering local media to collaborate with CSOs to educate citizens on media literacy and EU values. This partnership is crucial to counter disinformation and uphold the integrity of the EU accession process.
  • Regional Cooperation and Institutional Support: Building and strengthening regional initiatives is vital for fostering cooperation across various sectors such as industrial unions, education, cybersecurity, and consumer protection. The establishment of regional institutions can enhance coordination and support the development of a competitive common market.

The conference participants collectively welcomed the renewed commitment to socio-economic convergence and fundamental reforms outlined in the New Growth Plan and the Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans (RGFWB). However, they also called on the European Commission to substantially increase the grant component and provide timely technical assistance for acquis alignment and implementation.

The event provided a platform for participants to exchange views on the necessary reforms in both the Western Balkans and the EU to maintain the enlargement policy as one of the EU’s most significant success stories. The conclusions from the conference stressed the importance of aligning support mechanisms with EU cohesion policy principles, promoting transparency, and ensuring the active involvement of social partners and civil society in the reform processes.

Access conference conclusions here.

Learn more about our study on the role of civil society organisations in the accession process here.