Civil Society Forum Skopje 2018

Coming back to Skopje after two years, an interim edition of the Civil Society Forum (CSF) was held in the Macedonian capital on 7-9 October 2018. The event was attended by more than 60 representatives of civil society organizations bringing together old and new faces from a variety of backgrounds ranging from activist networks to academia and non-governmental organizations.

The forum featured three days of extensive debates, meetings, collaborative workshops and interactive panels. For a first-hand impression have a look at this short video.

In addition to CSF events organized on the margins of Western Balkans Summit Meetings, interim civil society fora have given a platform and voice to grassroots organizations and their representatives in the intergovernmental process of the Western Balkans Summits.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), together with the co-organizers, European Fund for the Balkans, Erste Stiftung, Eurothink and Youth Educational Forum, aimed at a general reflection on four years of Civil Society Fora in the Berlin Process, to analyze its strengths and weaknesses and to deliberate on the future of the process. 

Participating in group discussions, civil society representatives raised the question of more involvement of local actors and a more proactive agenda-setting by CS organizations during the preparations of Western Balkans summits; in open agora settings, they discussed the different expectations vis-a-vis the process and the different potential roles of CSOs from constructive consultancy to critical activism.

Following a conversation with Marta Szpala, one of the persons tasked with the preparations of the next Western Balkans Summit in Poznan (Poland), the current focal topics of the Polish government were discussed, namely regional cooperation on the local level, economic reforms and cooperation in the field of culture. Meanwhile, participants reiterated their expectation that the crucial issues of the rule of law, media freedom, and impunity be taken up by the Polish summit hosts and discussed in Poznan.  

Moreover, this edition of the CSF brought together high-level guests from Macedonia and the region to reflect on current regional dynamics such as the Macedonian referendum or the discussions around a ‘land swap’ between Kosovo and Serbia in an equally inclusive setting. The genuine engagement of the Macedonian Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, and the Foreign Minister, Nikola Dimitrov, with CSO-representatives from the whole region and vice-versa was one of the highlights of this edition of the Civil Society Fora of the Western Balkans Summit series. 

The Forum has succeeded in creating an open platform to reflect on the involvement and the role of civil society representatives in the Berlin-Process in the past and future. 

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