On Thursday 19 October the publication of European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity (EF), “Mapping The Western Balkans And The State Of Democracies In Transition: A Social Democratic Perspective”, was presented in the European Parliament. This publication was made possible with support of Party of European Socialist (PES) and strong commitment from the S&D Group in the EP. About 40 people attended the meeting, including S&D MEPs Tanja Fajon, Knut Fleckenstein and Jens Nilsson.
Developments in Western Balkans
New chairman of EF, Jens Nilsson, opened the meeting by congratulating the Macedonian social-democrats for becoming the biggest in the local elections. ‘It feels like I am part of the victory,’ he said. In Macedonia as well as Albania sister parties are now in power, which gives hope for social-democracy in the Balkan states as well as in the whole of Europe.
The publication aims to analyse the transformation of Western Balkans in recent years, the state of social democracy and social democratic parties, and the role of external actors in the region. For example, a dangerous development in the multi-ethnic Balkan states is the ‘ethnification of politics’, especially for the Bosnians, Croats and Serbs. Nationalism seems to be on the rise again. Furthermore, NGOs, media and civil society are increasingly under pressure in some countries. There is often a lack of freedom of speech and media. S&D MEP Fajon emphasised that the region is increasingly an important playground for geopolitics, as Russia, China and Turkey try to augment their influence. Therefore, the EU should strengthen her commitment to the region and think of creative ways to make the EU accession process more tangible for Western Balkans’ citizens. Yes, stability is crucial, but the EU should not forget about strengthening the rule of law and democracy, otherwise disappointment among citizens of the Balkans will only increase. We need to offer better lives for them as well as more job opportunities.
Jan Marinus Wiersma, Vice-President of the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity and editor of the publication, was positive about sister parties in the Western Balkans, but also critical. ‘Our parties are frontrunners of diversity and democracy,’ he said. All of them show urgency regarding the region. At the same time, some parties are too liberal on socio-economic issues. Moreover, corruption within the parties and internal party democracy remains a big challenge.
After the discussion of the contents of the publication, Wiersma presented the first book to Vice-President of the S&D Group Tanja Fajon. An official photo captured the moment, followed by a few questions.