Virtual Western Balkans Shadow Summit - video and highlights
We publish a recording of the discussion titled Web Western Balkans Shadow Summit held on Tuesday 5 May 2020, on EU enlargement in the Western Balkans and the protection of fundamental rights, as well as improvement of the mechanisms of their protection in the EU. Speakers were: Emina Bošnjak, Sarajevo Open Center (BiH), Zoran Ivančić, Public Interest Advocacy Center (CPI Foundation) (BiH), Sonja Stojanović Gajić, board member of Belgrade Centre for Security Policy and representative in the Joint EU-Serbia Consultative Committee (Serbia), Ivan Đurić, Youth Initiative for Human Rights (Serbia), Agon Maliqi, Sbunker (Kosovo), Dina Bajramspahić, Institute Alternative (Montenegro), Vildan Drpljanin, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (Macedonia), Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), Gordan Bosanac, CROSOL and Vesna Teršelič, Documenta. The discussion was moderated by journalist Ivana Dragičević. We highlight some of the key points.
Video is available at: https://crosol.hr/eupresidency/hr/video-virtualni-sastanak-zapadnog-balkana-u-sjeni-sa-ili-bez-eu/ (sound recording is combined in Croatian and English)
The European Union should send a message to BiH, that its status as a candidate is possible and achievable. It will, however, depend on the process of accomplishing all those steps that BiH must make with regard to the 14 priorities.
If a country invests 25 years in resolving one issue – the name of the state, and then there is a danger of a similar issue being opened soon – the status of the Macedonian language, perhaps the EU should anticipate that this type of problem will continue occurring in the West Balkans. The EU should adopt a declaration to support the candidate countries and those countries that are about to become the candidates.
Sonja Stojanović Gajić
Democracy is a remedy that protects our environment and our collective public goods. We can only persuade our politicians to give up their power in the long run, and that is where the EU must help us.
Political and civil society organizations need to work more closely. But the role of civil society should first and foremost be to lower tensions against our governments, to help and explain, and to support.
The EU should not make promises that it cannot implement, it should be more realistic. Funds and energy should be invested in protecting the space for civil action and media.
Without credibility, conditioning policies will not work. Now is the time to start working on a strategy to convince European societies that enlargement is in the common interest.
No one in Serbia is interested in this Summit. No message was sent to Serbia. The European Union has for too long been allowing others to interpret what it thinks and says. Her voice is not heard, only someone else's interpretations. Europe is not trying to get her voice heard. We are not advocates of the European Union. We are advocates of European values.
The Green New Deal is still too abstract for citizens. In this context, environmental organizations were trying to deal with things that affect people's daily lives, that is, we wanted to portray it through economics and money. Analyzes show that the money now invested in coal will in the long run represent lost money once BiH enters the EU, since that money had to be spent to comply with European standards.
During this pandemic, the Roma national minority finds itself in an especially sensitive position. As parties failed to form a government last year, they did not receive funds from the state budget, and neither will they receive any this year, due to the pandemic. Furthermore, because of the stigmatisation, they avoid declaring themselves as Roma - so that neither the state, nor the European Union, recognise how many Roma people there truly are. In addition, they are saddled with having to satisfy special sanitary conditions, which only serves the private sector.
The cooperation of established CSOs with new social movements should be enhanced. The challenges that threaten liberal democracy are global, and lessons from the Balkans in terms of tactical association of different actors can be valuable at a higher level.
The role of the media is particularly evident during the epidemic. This opportunity should be used to create a new media perspective on the Balkans, as it is a link to strengthen political influence. The sharp distinction between the civil and political spheres, which impedes us in political activity, needs to be reconsidered. One advocacy approach should include the argument that topics such as the Green New Deal and digitalization should be embedded in EU enlargement processes, and in particular the Human Security paradigm. This is what enables the EU to remain attractive and competitive in the 21st century.
The attitude towards victims should be humanized. We live in Croatia, which, like other post-Yugoslav countries, failed to end WWII. Through advocacy, addressing the fate of the missing and prosecuting war crimes more effectively, we have seen little success. The RECOM Commission on Facts on War Crimes and Victims should have complemented these mechanisms. We had the support of the European Union, but Croatia has always been ambivalent in that sense. It is necessary to continue advocacy, because approaching justice, building peace and trust is something that simply cannot be left out of focus. In celebration of the anniversary of the victory over fascism, we can see that we have put on the sidelines the issues of the Holocaust, genocide against the Roma and Serbs too easily, especially given the growing exclusivity, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. This reminds us of the need to critically re-examine the past.
Linking the process of confidence-building, co-operation within the Berlin Process, and with all the countries that will take over the presidency after Croatia, the involvement of the Western Balkans and as many citizens as possible in the Conference on the Future of Europe. Ways should be sought to encourage cooperation. In the Erasmus programs, we have a major problem that funding opportunities for EU Member States are different from those in non-EU countries, even for youth programs. The door to co-operation among young people and in all other spheres should be wide open, while citizens' initiatives should be more seriously supported.
The European Economic and Social Committee expressed its dissatisfaction with the decision to delay the opening of negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia for the third time. The importance of civil society in accession negotiations was emphasized. The attention and commitment of Western Balkan and European Union leaders in this process needs to be increased. Prior to the Zagreb Summit, they issued a statement signed by 19 organizations from the Western Balkans. Funding for civil society organizations must not be compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic, nor should their role in recovery be neglected.