CSO Declaration on Zagreb EU – Western Balkans Summit

Dear friends and colleagues from EU and Western Balkans,

On May 6th 2020 the leaders of EU member states and Western Balkan states will meet under the Croatian presidency of the EU Council to discuss a new perspective for WB states to become EU members. Due to the corona virus outbreak, the original Western Balkan Summit will be replaced by an online summit. To ensure that the voice of CSOs is included, Croatian civil society under the coordination of CROSOL, and NGOs from the region, have planned to organize a shadow summit. Unfortunately, this was also cancelled. In spite of everything, we have decided to deliver the message of the civil society to the leaders through this declaration. We are inviting you –  if you are in favour of this declaration – to sign it, so we can send a common message to the summit participants. 

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 and Albania,  Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis Skopje, Initiative for the monitoring of EU integration of BiH, Politikon Network and Sbunker.

Let’s hope that there will be an opportunity to meet face to face somewhere in Europe soon – wherever it is.

Thank you!

CSO Declaration on Zagreb EU – Western Balkans Summit 

With or Without (E)U

We, the undersigned civil society organizations from Western Balkan countries and EU member states, working on issues of fundamental rights and the rule of law, democratic institutions, civic engagement, environmental protection, combating corruption and protection of migrants;

Supporting the processes of European integration of the Western Balkan countries and advocating for their accession to the European Union;

Conscious of the problems and challenges Western Balkan countries face in securing and safeguarding the highest standards of democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, the rule of law, economic and social welfare and solidarity for their citizens;

Aware of prevalent political, social and economic challenges Western Balkan societies experience as a consequence of wars, gross violations of human rights, non-democratic and autocratic regimes, and economic and social inequalities;

Cognizant of the political, economic and social challenges the European Union and its member states face in terms of political fragmentation and the rise of populism and extremism, economical and social inequalities, migrations, social security etc., and present fatigue among political elites and voters regarding the  further expansion of the European Union to the Western Balkans;


Concerned about the serious attacks on democracy, the rule of law and human rights in some member states – particularly in the context of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak;

Concerned that the Croatian presidency avoided pursuing debates on the rule of law and democracy within the EU Council

Concerned with the lack of solidarity between the member states during the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as in dealing with migration issues,

We URGE heads of states or governments of the European Union members states and of the Western Balkan countries to:

Intensify and accelerate the negotiation and implementation of the reforms in the process of aligning with the acquis communautaire, especially in the fields of fundamental rights and freedoms, the judiciary, the rule of law, and democratic institutions. The Western Balkan countries should commit to genuine implementation of the reforms in order to achieve lasting institutional and social change, while the European Union should be principled in assessing the progress. Special attention should be put on enhancing the cooperation between the countries related to the fate of missing persons, strengthening cooperation and increasing efficiency of prosecution of war crimes, and supporting other transitional justice initiatives, especially the ones stemming from civil society, like RECOM. This is one of the prerequisites in building trust between states and societies in the Western Balkans. At the same time, any delays or postponements by the EU in dealing with issues of rule of law, human rights  and democracy within its member states have extremely negative consequences on the democratization process of all Western Balkan countries. As a result, we expect the EU to demonstrate its commitment to its fundamental values – not only through symbolic general statements, but through concrete actions.

Urge and support authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to promptly implement the 14 priorities of the European Commission’s Opinion published in May 2019. In an open and consultative process with civil society and the EU Delegation to BiH, the Council of Ministers of BiH should adopt a new Action Plan for the Implementation of the EC’s Opinion Priorities to target and focus on issues related to democracy building, establishing the rule of law, and protecting human rights. The EU should send a clear message that candidate status is possible, achievable and contingent on BiH taking concrete steps in implementing the EC Opinion’s 14 priorities. BiH cannot be left behind in the EU integration process of the Western Balkans, but it must show commitment and deliver reforms as part of this process.

Start genuine cooperation with civil society organizations from Western Balkan countries in designing and implementing reforms, and support CSOs, both financially and politically in their efforts in supporting democracy and rule of law reforms. The European Union should continue to rely on information from civil society organizations when assessing the effects of the reforms and avoid any political tendency which brings no constructive debate at the domestic level and with the EU enlargement process. Pro forma simulations and proclamations of enlargement reforms, but without concrete and substantial changes implemented by governments should be disclosed as such and politically condemned.

Include Western Balkan countries as beneficiaries in post-COVID-19 response programs targeting economic and social recovery, and in particular in the European Green New Deal plans. The role of civil society in the relief of the crisis should not be undermined, but instead facilitated and supported.

Civil society organizations from the Western Balkans should be represented at the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Meaningful accession can only take place if it is based on an honest commitment to the democratization and economic development of the Western Balkan countries. However, this road goes both ways. For instance, the EU should be honest about the substantial challenges to accession, instead of hiding behind  “problems of enlargement methodology.” Nevertheless, an improved methodology should be implemented as soon as possible. 

Without full democracy (which is more than just a multiparty system, but the full spectrum of democratic institutions including an independent judiciary, media and watchdog NGOs), and respect for the rule of law and human rights within and outside the EU, there can be no vision of peace and development in the future. If the EU cannot guarantee and deliver on its own proclaimed values, we: the pro-European NGOs working in the fields of fundamental rights and the rule of law, democratic institutions, civic engagement, environmental protection, combating corruption and protection of migrants – must inevitably ask ourselves the question: with or without (E)U? We want to believe that our future is within the EU and that the values we fight for everyday: respect for human rights, democratic institutions, the rule of law and the environment, are in fact our shared EU values. Let this Western Balkan Summit prove it.

May 5th 2020

Belgrade – Podgorica – Priština – Sarajevo – Skopje – Tirana – Zagreb

Sign the declaration:


    # Organisation City Country
    # Organisation City Country
    1 Center for Monitoring and Activism - CEMA Cacak Serbia
    2 Center for Europen Policy Studies on Regionaland Local Development Tirana Tirana
    3 Albanian Media Council Tirana Albania
    4 UZRH "Bolja budućnost" Zagreb Croatia
    5 Centar za odrzivi razvoj ,,MARKRIKAT" Brus Србија
    6 Le Courrier des Balkans PARIS France
    7 Centre for Civic Education (CCE/CGO) Podgorica Montenegro
    8 CURE Fondacija Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    9 Centre for Applied European Studies -CPES Belgrade Serbia
    10 Civic Initiatives Belgrade Serbia
    11 Albanian Disability Rights Foundation Tirana Albania
    12 Institute Alternative PODGORICA Montenegro
    13 BeFem Feminist Cultural Center Beograd Serbia
    14 Humanitarian Law Center Belgrade Serbia
    15 crossborder factory Berlin Germany
    16 Udhetim i Lire - Liberi di Viaggiare Durres Albania
    17 Fondacija Infohouse Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    18 Human Rights House Belgrade Belgrade Serbia
    19 ADRA Hrvatska Zagreb Croatia
    20 Forum civilna mirovna služba BiH (forumZFD) Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    21 Civil Society Promotion Center Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    22 Network for Building Peace Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    23 Foreign Policy Initiative BH Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    24 Initiative for the monitoring of EU integration of BiH Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    25 IZAĐI Novi Sad Serbia
    26 Udruga MI- Split Split Croatia
    27 FOND Bucharest Romania
    28 Hungarian Helsinki Committee Budapest Hungary
    29 Youth Educational Forum Skopje Republic of North Macedonia
    30 Heartefact Belgrade Serbia
    31 Committee for human rights Nis Nis Serbia
    32 Network of the Committees for Human Rights in Serbia CHRIS Nis Serbia
    33 Local Democracy Agency Zavidovici Zavidovici Bosnia and Herzegovina
    34 MULTIKULTURA Tetovo North Macedonia
    35 North Green Association Tirana Albania
    36 Vizion OJF Tirana Albania
    37 Coalition Margins Skopje North Macedonia
    38 European Association for Local Democracy (ALDA) Skopje North Macedonia
    39 Balkan Network for Local Democracy Skopje North Macedonia
    40 Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia Belgrade Serbia
    41 Centar lokalne demokratije Subotica Serbia
    42 Local Democracy Agency Mostar Bosnia and Herzegovina
    43 Local Democracy Agency of Albania VLORA Albania
    44 Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia Belgrade Serbia
    45 Local Democracy Agency of Kosovo Peja Kosovo
    46 Pescanik Belgrade Serbia
    47 Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights YUCOM Belgrade Serbia
    48 Italian Association of NGOs Rome Italy
    49 SOLIDAR Brussels Belgium
    50 Concord Italy Rome Italy
    51 Mensch Raum Land e.V. Berlin Germany
    52 Centar lokalne demokratije LDA Knjaževac Serbia
    53 WWF Adria Zagreb Croatia
    54 Centre for Peace Studies Zagreb Croatia
    55 Agencija za lokalnu demokratiju Niksic Montenegro
    56 WeWorld-GVC Foundation Milan Italy
    57 Balkan Green Foundation Pristina Kosovo
    58 Human Rights Action Podgorica Montenegro
    59 Albanian National Youth Network - ANYN Tirana Albania
    60 Human Rights House Foundation Oslo Norway
    61 Center for Social Advocacy Tirane Albania
    62 Albanian Coalition for Education Tirana Albania
    63 Balkan Civil Society Development Network Skopje North Macedonia
    64 PINK Embassy Albania Tirana Albania
    65 Child Rights Centre Albania (CRCA/ECPAT Albania) Tirana Albania
    66 European Centre Foundation Tirana Albania
    67 Institute for Research and Policy Analysis - Romalitico Skopje North Macedonia
    68 United Pro LGBT Albania Tiranë Albania
    69 OU Podum Otocac Croatia
    70 Terra Hub Zagreb Croatia
    71 European Policy Institute - Skopje Skopje Republic of North Macedonia
    72 Miramida Centar - Regionalne razmjene mirovnih iskustava Grožnjan/Buje Hrvatska
    73 Sarajevski otvoreni centar Sarajevo Bosna i Hercegovina
    74 Integrated Development Initiative Brcko District Bosnia and Herzegovina
    75 Association New Security Initiative Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    76 Centre for Security Studies Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    77 CPCD Donji Vakuf Bosnia and Herzegowina
    78 Mladiinfo Internacional Skopje North Macedonia
    79 Partners Albania for Change and Development Tirana Albania
    80 ILGA-Europe Brussels Belgium
    81 Association for nature and environment protection EKOPRO Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    82 Centar za ekologiju, obrazovanje i ofrživi razvoj CEKOOR Sarajevo Bosna i Hercegovina
    83 Resource Environmental Center Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    84 Finnish Development NGOs Fingo Helsinki Finland
    85 Foreign Policy Initiative BH Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    86 ODRAZ-Održivi razvoj zajednice Zagreb Croatia
    87 Centar za promociju civilnog društva Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
    88 Gong Zagreb Croatia
    89 Youth Initiative for Human Rights Belgrade Serbia
    90 ePaństwo Foundation Warsaw Poland
    91 ASTRA-Ankti trafficking action Belgrade Serbia
    92 Center for civil liberties-CEGAS Podgorica Montenegro
    93 Institute for Territorial Economic Development - InTER Belgrade Serbia
    94 Human Rights House Zagreb Zagreb Croatia
    95 Netherlands Helsinki Committee The Hague Netherlands
    96 Pro NEN (nevladina organizacija za razvoj elektronskih medija i njegovanje kulture komunikacije) Podgorica Montenegro
    97 International and Security Affairs Centre - ISAC Belgrade Serbia
    98 Helsinki Committee for Human Rights Skopje Republic of North Macedonia
    99 Politikon Network Podgorica Montenegro
    100 Documenta - Centar za suočavanje s prošlošću Zagreb Croatia
    101 European Movement in Serbia Belgrade Serbia
    102 Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights Osijek Osijek Croatia
    103 Civil Rights Defenders Stockholm Sweden
    104 Belgrade Centre for Security Policy Belgrade Serbia
    105 CROSOL - Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity Zagreb Croatia