Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play a significant role in the European Enlargement process. They represent a partner and a contributor within the EU agenda and strong implementer of the key policies and strategies.
CSOs have several roles regarding the European Enlargement process towards the Western Balkans and Turkey, as in the following examples:
- Grassroots level input in the process of formulating European Enlargement policies and strategies: CSO representatives can be asked for feedback on various policies, projects and issues, and can provide the European Commission (directly to Brussels) with concrete feedback on social and economic developments in the Western Balkans, unencumbered by political interests and much closer to the view of the citizens.
- Promoting EU values: projects undertaken by CSOs can raise the awareness of the general population with such values and can emphasise the need to understand and accept them in order to become a member of the European Union.
- Placing a human face on European Union policies and practices: often EU policies and procedures might seem distant, bureaucratic and burdensome to the Citizens. CSOs can act as a conduit for explaining the administrative and procedural processes of the EU, therefore softening the potential negative impact.
- Providing capacity building opportunities for governmental institutions on local and national level and other stakeholders to support the process of European Enlargement.
- Stimulate governments on local and national level to promote EU accession benefits and to accelerate the Enlargement process. Furthermore, a well organised Civil Society can stimulate various governmental institutions to fulfil EU Enlargement obligations.
How can CSOs become more visible for civil society?
The work and efforts of CSOs can become more visible for civil society through :
- communicating better publications and newsletters
- organising CSO fairs on the regular basis
- using media to influence local and national governments to work stronger with CSOs.
The capacity of CSOs needs to be strengthened in order to play this designated role. But, in order to do so local and national governments in the Western Balkans need to engage CSOs early in the reform process and include CSO experts in action planning and decision making
procedures. This will increase the overall engagement of civil society and ensure the participation of citizens in the process of European Enlargement.
- Olof Palme International Center, SOLIDAR, “Recommendations. Western Balkans: civil society and European Enlargment”