25 February 2016 International conference of the European Movement in Serbia - Civil Society and Beyond

25 February 2016 International conference of the European Movement in Serbia - Civil Society and Beyond

Thursday, 25 February 2016

European Movement in Serbia International Conference on Civil Society and Beyond: Joint Dialogue on European Path

The international conference of the European Movement in Serbia - Civil Society and Beyond: A Joint Dialogue on the European Path was opened today at the National Assembly House in the presence of more than 100 representatives of civil society and public authorities from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, and more than 30 representatives of European institutions and key actors of EU civil society.

Opening the gathering, National Assembly Speaker Maja Gojkovic said that cooperation with the civil sector is truly significant for the functioning of democracy in every society, even more so during negotiations on EU accession.

“The current legislature of the National Assembly has reached a political consensus on Serbia’s EU accession. This is our foreign policy priority and by passing laws in an effort to harmonise national legislation with the European and by conducting reforms we wish to be fully ready to join the organisation of European nations by 2020. I would like to stress that the economic reform we launched, as well the coming political reform, are conducted not only with an eye to EU membership, but first and foremost because of our citizens and the wish to make Serbia into a more modern and better organised state”, said Speaker Gojkovic.

She briefed the attending on the important steps the National Assembly has made to help boost the participation of civil sector representatives in the decision-making processes, mentioning that in June 2014 the National Assembly and the European Movement in Serbia had co-founded the National Convention on the European Union, comprising 571 NGOs and covering all areas that will be the topic of pre-accession talks.

“Their support and assistance is both necessary and invaluable in view of the coming comprehensive and demanding process of EU accession negotiations”, said Gojkovic.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic stressed that the Government and the civil sector need to cooperate, not only for the sake of public image or because the European Union demands it, but for the sake of partnerships with people who possess the knowledge, skills and wisdom and who are active companions to the state in the development of democracy.

“The civil sector is the source of expertise and an honest critic of society. They have greatly helped us about how to treat the refugees and migrants, and how to show our true face, and not the one we would maybe, in a political sense, show”, said Prime Minister Vucic.

He noted that the regional climate has changed and that the politicians, he said, have come to their senses, so Serbia today is a country that cooperates with its neighbours. That is why he thanked the civil sector which had always supported regional cooperation not as a political issue, but as the future of all Serbian citizens.

The Prime Minister said that the Government is committed to including civil society in the decision-making on all important issues, especially in the EU pre-accession talks.

Jadranka Joksimovic, Minister without portfolio responsible for European integration, agreed that the Government has recognised the importance of and established excellent cooperation with the civil sector. She said all the relevant factors should be part of the European integration efforts because that would help Serbia become a better and more organised society.

Michael Davenport, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, opined that the international conference of the European Movement in Serbia is an excellent way to exchange experiences and commended the European Movement for bringing such an impressive group of participants to Belgrade. He added that the fact the EU is raising its civil sector support from the IPA pre-accession funds from two to 3.5% speaks volumes of the importance the European Union attributes to the inclusion of the civil sector in the decision-making processes.

The attending were also addressed by the President of European Movement International Jo Leinen and the President of the European Movement in Serbia Prof. Dr Mihailo Crnobrnja.

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