01. Nov 2015.

MOVE.LINK.ENGAGE. – First Regional Annual Conference held in Belgrade

On Friday, 30th October at the premises of Impact hub in Belgrade was held The first regional conference called ,,Move.Link.Engage. Citizens’ participation in the decision-making within the EU integration process“. The conference was held as a forum for genuine exchange of thoughts, ideas and experiences related to participation and influence of civil society organizations in the process of European integration of the Western Balkan countries.

At the beginning of the conference participants were addressed by: Vesna Djukic, General Director of Belgrade Open School, Srdjan Majstorovic, Deputy director of the Office for European Integration of the Serbian Government, Jelena Pajovic Van Reenen, Head of the Group for International Cooperation and European Integration of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society Government of the Serbian Government and Hedvig Morvai, Executive director of  European Fund for the Balkans. The speakers wished the participants successful work, but they also emphasized the importance and benefits of the participation of civil society in the process of European integration.

The first panel of the conference was dedicated to the presentation of the initial findings of the regional research on the influence of citizens on decision-makers in the process of European integration. The research covered the Western Balkan countries in the European integration process (including Croatia as a member state), in order to demonstrate past experience, mechanisms and practices of citizen participation in the decision making process. On the basis of these findings, conclusions and recommendations for greater progress in this field will be drafted. Research findings and recommendations will be published in a regional study on the participation of citizens in the European integration process in the Western Balkan and their former influence in the process. The panel speakers were: Danijela Bozovic from Belgrade Open School as a key researcher for Serbia, Ana Novakovic from the Centre for Development of NGOs, as a researcher for Montenegro, Zeljana Buntic-Pejakovic from the association "Cenzura plus", as researcher from Croatia and Davide Denti from the University of Trento (Italy), as a researcher for Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo. The moderator of this panel, but as well the coordinator and mentor for the entire research process was Natasha Wunsch from the University College London.

The second panel provided an overview of the entire process of EU enlargement to the Western Balkan countries, the role of civil society in the process, and the results of the summit held this year in Vienna. Alojz Peterle, Member of the European Parliament from Slovenia, Nikola Dimitrov from the Hague Institute for Global Justice and Hedvig Morvai from the European Fund for the Balkans, as speakers on this panel discussed the practices of civil society participation in decision-making at EU level and at the level of its member states. Moderator of this part of the conference was Igor Bandovic from the European Fund for the Balkans.

The third part of the conference was organized in the form of three round tables, which focused on three major sub-themes when it comes to civil society and the process of European integration of the Western Balkan: transparency, participation and accountability. Each of the tables dealt with a different topic, and the participants could choose the topic they prefer. Discussions are moderated by representatives of civil society organizations from Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. So for the table that deals with the theme of transparency moderators were Rasa Nedeljkov from the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (Serbia) and Tijana Cvjeticanin from organization "Why not?" (Bosnia and Herzegovina). For the table that dealt with the topic of participation, moderators were Neda Milisic Buklijas from Association "Cenzura plus" (Croatia) and Zoran Markovic from the Center for Development of NGOs (Montenegro). Finally, moderators for the table that dealt with the topic of responsibility were Blerina Guga from the organization "Partners Albania" (Albania) and Aleksandar Cekov from the Center for Research and Policy Making (Macedonia). The main moderator of this session was Tamara Brankovic from Belgrade Open School.

After discussions for the round tables moderators presented the conclusions made at their table, as well as recommendations for further actions within the framework of the abovementioned topics. It was emphasized that progress is more than necessary in each of these sub-themes, as well as the greater openness of the official authorities in the countries of the Western Balkan, but also more active role of civil society organizations and institutions of the European Union. Vanja Dolapcev from Belgrade Open School, as the moderator of the sum up session, presented final remarks and officially closed the first regional conference, "Move.Link.Engage. "

Regional conference "Move.Link.Engage." was held in cooperation with the Office for cooperation with Civil Society the Serbian Government, the European Fund for the Balkans and with the support of the "Europe for Citizens" Programme of the European Union, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation - Office for Serbia and Montenegro and the Regional Office of the Foundation Heinrich Boll in Belgrade.