A. GOVERNMENTAL COOPERATION
Reforms in areas such as environment or transport are not properly/ sufficiently implemented. Western Balkan countries need more precise and sustainable conditions as indispensable mechanisms of government accountability.
Create a mechanism for monitoring and ensuring implementation of laws in the Western Balkans through a Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification. In this sense, Romania and/ or Bulgaria can be used as examples. Nevertheless, the mechanism should be adapted and expanded to other policy areas whose implementation have a visible impact on day-to-day lives of European citizens. In this regard, environment, transport and energy transition are of crucial importance. This mechanism can be used by the European Commission to monitor and implement reforms, providing the accession process with much-needed incentives and dynamism, while maintaining credibility of the EU as a whole.
There are some aspects of citizens’ lives that should not be politicised – freedoms, security. A practical and current example is the EU Green Passport, which is not applicable to all countries in the Western Balkans (e.g. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo).
EU member states must work together with the Commission in order to ensure the implementation of the Green Pass recognition for all WB countries, as their own governments can adapt both their legal and logistical frameworks to ease this process – this decision would mark a shift of the Western Balkans from simple beneficiaries of EU aid (recovery funds, tests, vaccines) to equal partners in the effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on everyday life. With quick and cohesive action, the EU Commission and Member States can transform the mutual recognition process into a success story in both health and geopolitical security.
The EU is not visible enough for common citizens – European identity and its actions are insufficiently promoted at local (sub-national) level, especially in beneficiaries of the enlargement process.
Elaborate and implement public diplomacy activities in the Western Balkans – develop the EEAS’ public diplomacy instruments, with support from member states’ diplomatic resources. Civil society and representatives of youth organisations must work hand in hand with governments and the Commission to develop a comprehensive digital communication strategy aimed at promoting the EU to all demographic/ social groups from the WB region in an adaptive and cohesive manner.
B. THE NEW EU
The catching-up process of new members of the Union is not fast enough, resulting in brain drain, decreased state capacity and prolonged dependency on the “old” member states.
The emphasis should be placed on long-term strategies, i.e. countries should present plans such as in the case of the Recovery Fund. EU investments should be focused on initiatives that are closer to the people, e.g. their aim is to create jobs. The European Union must use its tools to act as a facilitator of transnational and local graduate programmes to increase human capital and fight youth unemployment in both member states and candidate countries.
Understanding of the European Union’s functioning and policies is very low, resulting in accessibility, transparency and credibility problems.
The European Union should appoint youth coordinators for each member state and candidate countries to create links between the EU officials and the young people so that citizens can express opinions, ideas and engage in the EU legislative process.
C. THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND YOUTH
A lack of development tools for civil society and youth organisations and promotion of activity/ results.
Making EU material more accessible in Balkan languages to empower CSOs. This measure would ensure empowerment and capacity-building within the EU institutions as well. Cooperation with the CSOs and NGOs in the field would create clear, comprehensive and interactive materials that would respond to the needs of CSOs and their beneficiaries.
Develop a twinning/ ERASMUS-type programme between EU and Balkan NGOs that work on similar issues and can benefit from their respective experience. The EU should set the legal and financial framework and also provide administrative/ logistical aid.
The EU should facilitate the financial and legislative framework for supporting the foundation of start-ups that focus on social entrepreneurship in EU and Balkan countries alike.
Project Proposal: Twinning civil society NGOs
Bringing together NGOs from EU and Balkan countries as partners for a one-year period and assist them in facilitating bilateral learning/ capacity-building within the civil society.
Over the course of the project, partner NGOs will be asked to come together monthly online in bilateral meetings and talk about common issues and ways to overcome them. At the beginning and the end of the time period, we would like to invite the representatives from all twinned NGOs to meet in person for a week of discussions and workshops.
Partners in this project could be found in the EU and the regional EU offices as well as RYCO/ RCC as an example for international connection within the region.
We hope to strengthen the capacities of NGOs in the EU and the WB6, bring new impulses into the enlargement process and promote cooperation within the EU between NGOs with expertise from EU27 and WB. We want to strengthen the influence of citizens and of the EU and WB6 civil society towards their respective governments to strengthen their voice.