16 May 2018
Under the framework of the Bulgarian Presidency, the European Economic and Social Committee, in cooperation with TAIEX, organized in May 15, the Conference “Economic and social cohesion in the Western Balkans”. The main objective of the conference was to prepare recommendations of the economic and social partners, as well as from civil society organizations from the Western Balkans, and present them to the EU Heads of States, before the Sofia Summit of May 17.
The conference was greeted by the Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Mrs. Ekaterina Zaharieva, who emphasized the three top core values expressed by the EU citizens – when they were questioned which were the main values of the EU – an EU that is solidary, secure and social. These values should also be pursued when implementing the reforms in the Western Balkans. She added that the undertaken reforms in the region in the framework of the accession process should be done for the citizens of these countries. Deputy Prime Minister Zaharieva confirmed the support of Bulgaria to the European perspective of the region.
The representatives of EESC also confirmed their position on supporting the European path of the WB, a support which is clearly set out in the opinion “Economic and social cohesion and EU integration of the Western Balkans – challenges and priorities”, adopted in April 2018. They emphasized the strong role that social and economic partners should play in the region by facilitating and supporting the engaged reforms.
Cooperation and Development Institute Director, Mrs. Krisela Hackaj, invited in the panel “Connectivity in the Western Balkans”, presented the main findings and recommendations of the research study “Berlin Process 2014-2018”. Amongst others, she highlighted the necessity to reinforce and consolidate the connectivity governance mechanisms, the necessity for a higher regional cooperation among the public administrations of the Western Balkans countries, the need for a greater attention during the planning phases of such connectivity projects with regard to the local communities, micro-connectivity and the human capital and social infrastructure.