The decline of democracy and the rule of law, together with the stalling of the European integration of the Western Balkans, are the biggest and most significant changes that have taken place in this region in the last ten years. Global challenges and the challenges within the EU in the last decade have not helped the democratisation and socio-economic transformation of the Western Balkans. The global economic crisis, the migration wave to Europe, the rise of the extreme right and populist leaders, Brexit, the bad image of the Balkans in some EU countries, erosion of basic European values, and power struggles within the EU are some of the issues that have adversely affected the region.
In 2008, together with other European foundations, we launched the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB), a joint initiative of European foundations that envisions, runs and supports initiatives aimed at strengthening democracy, fostering European integration and affirming the role of the Western Balkans in addressing Europe’s emerging challenges. Since its inception, the EFB has opened up communication channels with high-level regional and European decision-making institutions, rounding up the “critical mass” of policy and opinion makers among its community members – thus creating the pre-conditions to exercise an impact on regional policy-making. The Fellowship Programme for Government Officials from the Western Balkans aims to educate civil servants about European political and social systems. A series of Policy Hackathons aim to create new solutions for problems the citizens in the Balkans are facing. The Think and Link Regional Policy Programme supports Balkan civil society organisations and independent institutes in the fields of public analysis, research and public policy proposals. A project aimed at improving regional cooperation is the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), which represents a group of experts engaged in researching political, economic and social trends in the Balkans. EFB coordinates the Civil Society Forum within the framework of the Berlin Process.
Our aim is to contribute to the functional democracies in the Western Balkans through a credible EU membership prospect, improved regional cooperation and increased citizen engagement and demand for democracy. The Enlargement policy shall regain political credibility and operate according to the Thessaloniki agenda. Regional cooperation among civil society actors in the Western Balkans region shall improve, based on solidarity, demand-driven dialogue and exchange of ideas and opinions. Informed and empowered citizens take action and demand accountable institutions and democracy.
The European Fund for the Balkans is a joint initiative of Robert Bosch Foundation, King Baudouin Foundation and ERSTE Foundation