The event brought together representatives of the Commission, MEPs, trade unionists, experts and representatives of civil society to engage in a discussion on enlargement, social inclusion policies, and migration-related challenges in the Western Balkans. The focus of the debate was on how a reinforced social dimension in enlargement policy can be brought to life.
Criticism about the social dimension of the EU's enlargement policy is common in Western Balkan societies as enlargement policy over the past years has been perceived as prioritizing the creation of functioning market economies and supply-side skill acquisition strategies. Social issues, in contrast, have not been at the top of the agenda. The recent study commissioned by the FES, "Enlargement Policy and Social Change in the Western Balkans", found that social exclusion remains widespread – citizens' political, economic and social participation is inadequate.
Last year, the European Commission published a new enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans, announcing “a new reinforced social dimension”. It is expected to deliver changes in the realms of employment, education, and healthcare. Placing increased emphasis on social matters is good news in a region affected by significant economic and social inequalities. But will this pledge materialize?
Besides this public discussion, representatives of the FES held bilateral meetings with some of the MEPs and European Commission representatives deliberating policy innovations regarding the social dimension of the EU's enlargement policy.
Please find more information about the “Enlargement Policy and Social Change in the Western Balkans” here.