The first Regional Annual Conference, “Move. Link. Engage. – Citizens’ participation in the decision-making within the EU integration process”, which was held in Belgrade on October 30, 2015, addressed the need for deeper involvement of the citizens from the Western Balkans (WB) countries in the European Union (EU) Enlargement Policy and EU-oriented reforms. The Conference gathered the key representatives of civil society and partner institutions/foundations, government officials from all Western Balkans countries (including Croatia as an EU Member State), as well as representatives of EU institutions, particularly the European Parliament.
The two panels on “Citizens participation” and “Civil Society between Vienna and Paris: Perspectives of Future Engagement”, involved the stakeholders from the WB and the EU in a genuine exchange of observations, thoughts and ideas on the current and perspective levels, models and practices of citizen participation in a decision-making related to the EU integration process.
Hedvig Morvai, the Executive Director of the European Fund for the Balkans, who was one of the panellists, pointed out that the EU principle of “business as usual” towards the Western Balkan countries is not resulting in positive prospects for the democratic processes.
“European Integration is not a mantra for the WB, it is our everyday life. The countries should be encouraged to continue with the reforms and the quest for solution of the bilateral disputes.”-stated Morvai.
One of the main conclusions was also the fact that a successful democratic transformation of the WB requires policies that address real problems, with improved civic participation in the decision-making process. If the EU integration process becomes open, transparent and accountable to citizens at the earlier stages, then the chances are higher that there will be no obstacles to the consolidation of reforms and no backslides after a country becomes an EU Member State.
The conference was organised by the Belgrade Open School in partnership with the European Fund for the Balkans and the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society of the Serbian Government, and supported by the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung – Serbia, Montenegro Office and Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Office in Belgrade.