The Civil Society Forum in Trieste is a first culmination of the conference series launched in 2015. Joint recommendations were communicated to the politicians present at the Western Balkans Summit, and incorporated into the Summit’s official Declaration, which expresses unwavering commitment to European enlargement in the Balkans.
During the past months, the Civil Society Forum series successfully generated dialogue between more than 200 representatives of civil society and media organizations, NGOs and academia, resulting in identifying the most significant challenges faced by societies in the region. These include establishing more harmonious regional cooperation and bilateral relations, improving the overall conditions for entrepreneurial activity, fostering youth cooperation, effectively addressing issues regarding the environment and climate change, and working towards more transparent communications of the process.
Furthermore, the topic of democratization was addressed in its complexity in a panel discussion organized by the FES, with the title “Democracy in the Balkans: now and never?”. The panel brought together local and international experts, as well as regional activists and representatives of youth organizations. It was a successful example of how further streamlining agendas and insights of various political and social actors can be mutually beneficial in the advancement of a critical and forward-thinking civil society.
Recommendations, which can be read here, were received by Angelino Alfano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner of European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and moreover the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro, Ditmir Bushati, Nikola Dimitrov, and Srđan Darmanović.
Establishing these channels of communication between civil society and leading politicians is one of the main concerns of the Dialogue SOE, which together with the ERSTE foundation and the European Fund for the Balkans launched the conference series. Existing since 2015, the Civil Society Forum has thus become an important tool for the broadening of participation and ownership in the European Integration process. As the latter continues to be complemented and advanced by the Berlin process and its Western Balkans Summit, the Civil Society Forum continues as well, adding the valuable voice of civil society.