The third Civil Society Forum, which is taking place just a day before the Western Balkans Summit of the Berlin Process, started in Trieste on July 11th, with approximately 200 participants – representatives of the civil society from Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and other parts of the region.
Hedvig Morvai, executive director of the European Fund for Balkans, pointed out the importance of the Berlin process for EU integration of the 6 Western Balkans countries, and the fact that the Berlin initiative enables active participation of citizens in the EU accession process.
“We are trying to deal with real issues. No one will listen to us if we discuss apples, while they are talking oranges”, said Morvai and reminded that the recommendations coming from this Forum will be directly communicated to the ministers of foreign affairs.
Mr Walter Kaufmann, head of Eastern and Southeast Europe department of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, stated that the Foundation is a newcomer to the Forum, but not a newcomer to the Balkans. He reminded of the long presence of the Foundation and its active cooperation with the civil society. “We invest a lot of energy in a meaningful cooperation with the governments, since there were cases of similar CSO forums where governments managed to act, without taking recommendations seriously”. Kaufmann also stressed the importance of environment, energy and renewable energy sources for the economies of the region.
Mr Nenad Šebek, head of regional HBS office for Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro, replied to the remarks that the democracy on the Balkans should be restored: “We never had democracy, so we can't restore it. The change has to come from us. We don't need to fix the engine, but to build it from the start”.
The Heinrich Boell Foundation is organizing one of the five Workshops taking place at the Forum. The panel is dedicated to the environment, energy and climate changes.
WALTER KAUFMANN WITH JOURNALISTS IN TRIESTE
"There is still a major lack of cooperation, major lack of trust in politics and politicians. The public doesn't participate in the decision-making process, and it is needed. That is why we are supporting civil society, to make society participate and to make politics more transparent”, said Walter Kaufmann, head of Eastern and Southeast Europe department of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, during a conversation with journalists gathered in Trieste, at the Civil Society Forum.
“Sometimes civil society lives in sort of a bubble, and this is what also has to change. We have to encourage people to work more with ordinary people, people on the streets, to make their voices heard and to give less chance to populist politicians to say that they act in the name of ordinary people which is usually not the case”, claims Kaufmann.
He also pointed out that environmental policies are definitely an investment, and shouldn't be perceived as a threat, but as a modernization of economy. “Investing in coal and old technologies is really a way to harm your country. Investing in environment and renewable energy is a way that Europe is heading to”.