EU accession has been a long-held aspiration for Albania and the overarching driving force behind democratization reforms in the country and the wider region. Including non-state actors, such as civil society organizations (CSOs), in the accession negotiation process has taken a prominent role.
With the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES Tirana), Centre Science Innovation for Development (SCiDEV) has conducted research focused on the role and practices of engagement of Albanian civil society organizations – including think tanks, watchdogs, community, and service provider organizations, youth organizations, advocacy organizations, and networks – in the country’s EU accession process by drawing on an analysis of existing publications and the perceptions of civil society organizations themselves.
This study briefly overviews the EU’s support for civil society in candidate countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Western Balkans during their accession process. The literature points out that while EU support in CEE countries before and/or during accession has managed to increase the engagement of civil society and its exchange with state actors on policy matters, it has not necessarily resulted in a lasting inclusion of non-state actors in the decision-making processes in the post-accession period.
The analysis then dives into the legislative and institutional framework that governs accession negotiations in Albania. It examines the National Council for European Integration and the European Integration Partnership Platform as key structures for promoting an enabling environment for civil society organizations to participate in the EU integration process meaningfully.
To better understand the experiences of Albanian civil society organizations and their contribution to the EU-related processes, the study relies on an online survey of 122 organizations, informal networks, and groups. In this way, this study presents their perspectives regarding practices of engagement, challenges, and opportunities.
The study “Engagement of Albanian CSOs in the EU accession process – Challenges and opportunities” can be accessed here.
On this occasion, SCiDEV, with the support of FES Tirana, organized a public roundtable on 16th December at Tirana Times Library, moderated by Orkidea Xhaferaj. This roundtable brought together representatives from civil society, public institutions, academia, media, the donor community, and students. In addition to the presentation of the study’s key findings and recommendations by the study team leader, Blerjana Bino, panelists and participants alike reflected on the effective engagement of CSOs in the EU accession process and discussed the future ahead. Mr. Michael Weichert, Director of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Tirana, outlined the vital role that CSOs can play in the EU accession process, and now that the “EU train is in motion for Albania, it is crucial to have an effective engagement and overcome challenges,” he noted. Dr. Gentian Elezi, European Institute, University of Tirana, highlighted that the study is an added value to the current body of research on the subject matter as it provided perspectives of CSOs as they see their role and contribution in the process. In addition, Dr. Elezi pointed out that public institutions and CSOs must proactively and genuinely cooperate. “The best human resources must be mobilized and engaged in the process by civil society and public institutions with the support of the donors,” he concluded. Mr. Arjan Dyrmishi, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy and Governance, pointed out one of the study’s findings on the overreliance on the EU accession process for participation of CSOs, which might lead to ‘steps back’ once the process is completed. He stressed that it is crucial that the effective engagement and involvement of CSOs is sustainable in the long run and embedded in the decision-making process in the country.
Public event agenda here.