Bojidar Danev, President of the Bulgarian Industrial Association, participated as an observer in the first Western Balkans Civil Society Forum organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and held in Brussels on 27 and 28 March 2006.
The meeting of the Western Balkans Civil Society Forum brought together approximately 200 participants, including: delegates from Western Balkans countries, members of the EESC, representatives of Economic and Social Councils of European countries, representatives of EU institutions and international organizations, the diplomatic corps, international socio-professional organizations (employers, trade unions, farmers) and NGOs.
Over the last few years the EESC has been increasingly involved in matters that concern Western Balkans. Bringing together representatives of various economic and social components of organised civil society, the Committee has followed the development of civil society in the region with great interest.
The EESC can act as an effective intermediary between EU policy makers and general interest groups, since the Committee accommodates positions and viewpoints of employers´, farmers´, workers´, professional occupations´ and consumers´ organizations.
The EESC has adopted several opinions on Western Balkans since 2001:
• “Development of human resources in the Western Balkans” (2001)
• “Promoting the involvement of Civil Society organisations in South-East Europe – Past experiences and future challenges” (2003)
• “The role of civil society in the new European strategy for the Western Balkans” (request of the Italian Presidency of the EU, 2003)
• “Croatia’s application for EU membership” (2004)
This Forum was part of the work of the Western Balkans Contact Group created by the EESC in 2004, and it also coincided with the preparation of an exploratory opinion requested by the European Commission on “The situation of civil society in the Western Balkans”. It provided an initial opportunity for EESC members, representatives of civil society organisations from the Western Balkans and the various European institutions to exchange views on the situation, needs and future of civil society in the region. Within the context of the Austrian Presidency of the EU, it was part of a broader effort to take forward the EU stabilisation and association process in the region.
The meeting of the Western Balkans Civil Society Forum was to bring together many participants, including: delegates from Western Balkans countries, members of the EESC, representatives of Economic and Social Councils of European countries, representatives of EU institutions, the diplomatic corps, international socio-professional organizations (employers, trade unions, farmers, consumers) and NGOs.
The objectives of the Western Balkans Civil Society Forum were:
• to inform delegates on Western Balkans-EU relations;
• to assess the situation of organised civil society in the region;
• to engage in a dialogue on the promotion of consultative function and social dialogue;
• to define common activities for the years 2006 & 2007.
• Members of the European Economic and Social Committee;
• Delegates of Western Balkans civil society organisations;
• Representatives of Economic and Social Councils in the European Union;
• Representatives of European and international socio-occupational organisations;