On 26th August, around 100 representatives of civil society from the Western Balkans met to finalize recommendations delivered to EU and Western Balkans leaders present at the Vienna Summit. The recommendations focused on proposing measures on how to tackle challenges of youth and unemployment; freedom of expression and regional cooperation and called on WB leaders to support civil initiatives and networks who have so far showed very tangible results.
Ahead of the Summit, ideas for follow-up activities were exchanged so that civil society could be included in the so called Berlin Process more directly, on continuous basis and as equal partners in the EU integration process. Among the concrete issues proposed were balancing between human connectivity (increased contact, eps for youth) vis-à-vis physical connectivity (roads, railroads); longer-term economic focus on development which must also include democratic governance and rule of law. As the WB Governments are setting up a WB Fund on the example of the International Vishegrad Fund, which funds regional civil society, academic etc. projects and exchanges, civil society hopes Government to not devise solutions for civil society without its inclusion.
The Forum itself included also a TV-debate between WB Government representatives from selected countries (PM Rama and Vucic, Ministers Crdanak, Luksic), EU Commissioner Hahn and civil society representatives as an attempt to put to practice dialogue at the highest level and a shooting of a TV show Vicinities/Okruzenje on the topic of regional youth with both PMs and RRC Secretary General, Goran Svilanovic.
While the civil society has devised a set of steps to follow-up the civil society engagement at regional level, it is to be seen if WB leaders enhance dialogue with civil society as one of their priorities in reforms and wether the next Summit to take place in Paris in 2016 will provide space for further inclusion of civil society in discussing priority reforms at the highest level.
More information on the Forum is available in the Press Release here.