Civil Society Forum Skopje 2016

This edition of the Civil Society Forum (CSF) of the Western Balkan Summit Series took place in Skopje, Macedonia throughout November 24-26th. The forum was dedicated to the themes of social justice, democracy and Europe.

The forum comes as a response to the increasing distrust in democracy and its institutions in Europe today, amidst one of the most severe crises it has faced in a long time. Precarious conditions most European citizens find themselves in, coupled with non-democratic ideas and policies, are creating fertile grounds for an emergence of authoritarian tendencies throughout the continent.

Reacting to a common sense of great urgency, the organizers felt the need to dedicate an entire Civil Society Forum of the Berlin Process to the more fundamental challenges democracy is currently facing. Hence, this edition of the CSF was meant as vehicle for participants to re-claim notions of democracy, social justice and Europe in their respective societies.

This time again, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Dialogue SOE and Macedonia offices, together with the European Fund for the Balkans, European Alternatives and the ERSTE Stiftung, jointly organized the Civil Society Forum in Skopje, together with local partners from the Macedonian Center for European Training, the Youth Educational Forum and the Macedonian Young European Federalists. The forum gathered over 100 actors from civil society (activists, advocates, artists, and researchers), all of whom engaged in vivid discussions on the emancipatory potential in Southeastern Europe, whilst mentioning social movements and activism present in the region for the past couple of years. All in all, the forum reflected a diverse view of positions and opinions which nonetheless remained uniformed in that the underlying issues lie in the social context.

The forum provided space for high-level participants, such as MEP Knut Fleckenstein, Macedonia's Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Dimitrov. However, the format was tailored in such a way that it brought together people from different contexts including for example activists and workers from the "KUC Textile" an artist and activist collective which founded a group fighting for the rights of textile workers in Macedonia, called "Glasno – Tivkoto Množino" (Loud - The Silent Majority). Under the title "Wonder Women of the Colorful Revolution" three female activists shared their personal experiences during protest times, including attacks, slander and other forms of organized hostility. By opening up a space for such encounters, participants from across Southeast Europe and beyond were able to exchange and connect both on a professional and personal level. 

The Civil Society Forum Series strives to establish a second-track platform within the Berlin Process in order to create impulses for decision-makers on wider European debates, whilst aiming to become recognized and relevant segments for the governments and politicians in the region, continuously maintaining the urge to work closely with civil society.

Our partners from European Alternatives, once again, recorded an episode of their Talk Real series during the Civil Society Forum Skopje, which can be found here. A video of the event itself can be found here.

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