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“With or Without (E)U”: Civil Society Calls on EU and Western Balkan Leaders to Take Concrete Steps for European Integration

06 May 2020
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Today, 6 May 6 2020, leaders from EU member state leaders and the Western Balkan are meeting online to discuss new perspectives for Western Balkan states to become EU members.  Democracy, rule of law, and civic engagement civil society organisations from the region and from EU are calling on leaders at the Western Balkan Summit to take concrete steps to support European integration of the Western Balkan states.

The joint declaration, signed by the NHC, emphasizes that action is needed on both sides to further the process. It further states that integration should be “based on an honest commitment to the democratization and economic development of the Western Balkan countries.” Western Balkan states should genuinely implement the reforms while the EU needs to be principled in its assessment of reforms that have taken place. It also calls on leaders to develop stronger relationships with civil society from the region, involving them in the design and implementation of reforms.

When asked why these types of reform were important, NHC Executive Director Pepijn Gerrits said, “genuine democratic societies, based on the rule of law and human rights, should include an independent judiciary, freedom of the media and strong civil society. To put the ghosts of the past to rest, and work towards a peaceful and just future for the countries of the Western Balkans, there needs to be a clear perspective to join the EU in the foreseeable future. This requires genuine commitment from both sides.” The NHC has been working on securing the rule of law in the Western Balkans for decades, and will continue to support effort of reform to criminal justice systems and promoting the rights of vulnerable groups in the region.

This declaration was drafted by CROSOL – Croatian Platform for International Citizens Solidarity, Human Rights House Zagreb, Documenta – Center for Dealing with the Past, Civil Rights Defenders, Balkan Civil Society Development Network, Belgrade Center for Security Policy, Helsinki Committees for Human Rights from North Macedonia, Albanian Helsinki Committee, Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis Skopje, Initiative for the Monitoring of EU integration of BiH, Politikon Network and Sbunker.

Click here to read the full declaration: CSO Declaration on Zagreb EU – Western Balkans Summit