EU: Civil society important in pressuring institutions

NEWS 09.04.2019 08:54
Source: N1

The head of the European Union Delegation in Serbia Sem Fabrizi said the bloc would continue to support the development of the civil society since it was important in cooperating with institutions and putting pressure on them, the Beta news agency reported.

Fabrizi said there were many areas in which the EU and Serbia’s civil sector cooperated very well, like in the environment protection, investigative journalism and minority rights among other topics.

“The EU supports the civil society role across the world, including Serbia and the Western Balkans. That is a part of (the Union) foreign policy,” Fabrizi said at the opening of the International Week of Civil Society, organised by the Civil Initiatives with the international CIVICUS network.

The conference that is taking place in Belgrade from April 8 to 12 is a global gathering of some 1,000 civil societies’ leaders, activists and citizens from different walks of life who want to take part in finding a common solution for the global crisis.

The programme of the conference includes 30 sessions with topics ranging from curbing media freedom, an urgent aid to the organisations suffering attacks and the rise in the civil society’s responsibility.

Addressing the gathering, the US ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott said that during the entire history of his country the civil society enabled every significant step forward including the abolition of slavery, labour and consumer rights as well as the general voting right.

“Thank you all on your courage and dedication. You are real heroes,” Scott told the representatives of civil societies from different parts of the world.

Andrea Orizio, the head of the OSCE mission in Serbia, said civil society was “the engine of reforms,” whether the issue was safety, fighting corruption, protection of minorities or empowering women.

The Council of Europe (CoE) representative in Serbia Tobias Flessenkemper said that the CoE was trying to be a laboratory of ideas for civil society, focusing on defence of the fundamental rights and freedoms and for the world without discrimination.

He reminded the conference that it was the World Roma Day on Monday, declared in the honour of the great international gathering of Roma representatives in 1971 in London.

“It is a great pleasure to sponsor the Roma activists at this conference. That’s an important signal that we work in the spirit of unity,” Orizio said.

The Swiss ambassador to Serbia Philippe Guex said the civil society was the central pillar of democracy and that active citizens were the foundation of a healthy state.

He pointed out the importance of civil society’s role in those days when, as he said, the democratic processes were regressing.

His Dutch colleague Henk van den Dool said The Netherlands “will undoubtedly side with civil societies across the world.”

Zarko Stepanovic, the acting director of Serbia’s Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, said Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and her cabinet had supported the organisation of the International Week of Civil Society, as well as that they were open for cooperation with civil sector.

He described as “exaggerated” the criticism of Serbia’s Government cooperation with civil society, adding the Government “will continue to listen to the civil society voice in adjusting the regulations to the European legislative.”