Voice of IRIS Network in Brussels

IRIS Network together with Solidar  on 10th November 2015, organised a roundtable debate at the European Economic and Social Committee titled “Migration and Fundamental Rights: Will the EU live up to its values?”.

The roundtable was divided into two panel discussions. The first panel focused on the need to improve the Common European asylum system and putting solidarity and respect of human rights at the hearth of EU migration and integration polices. The second panel titled “How to support CSOs providing humanitarian assistance and services to refugees along the Western Balkans route?” reflected the link between EU Enlargement and EU migration policies and explored tools in order to support CSOs providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees along the Western Balkan route.

The second panel was organized in the framework of the EU-funded project “Improving the provision of Social Service Delivery in South Eastern Europe through the empowerment of national and regional CSOs”, implemented by the consortium of LIR CD BiH, OGI Croatia, EDC Serbia, SOS TELEPHONE Montenegro, CLARD Kosovo, ARSIS Albania, ASYD FYROM, and SOLIDAR – led by ASB Germany & in collaboration with TACSO.

Panel was introduced by opening remarks of MEP Tanja Fajon, S&D group, who stated that “it had been a shameless summer for Europe”. Mrs Fajon also expressed her concern on the alleged fact that Member States, although they pledge to, are not enough financing funds.

Ivan Marin, Network Manager of IRIS Network, shared his concerns regarding the criminalization of certain NGOS who provide services to refugees. However, he welcomed the incoming Directive on researchers and students set to avoid brain drain and maximize brain gain whilst enabling young people to access more social opportunities via legal channels.

Other participants invited by IRIS Network, such as Oktay Durukan, Director of Refugee Rights Turkey, Irida Pandiri, Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS)- Greece, Borče Jankuloski, from Preda Plus – FYROM, Zlatar Franci from Slovene Philantropy-Slovenia, Srba Jovanović from Refugee Aid Serbia-Serbia and Nikoleta Poljak, Volunteer Centre Osijek-Croatia, highlighted the work of their respective organizations on migrant crisis relief in Balkan. They noted how it was complex for smaller organizations to access available funds, deemed as too rigid and strict. Cooperation could foster a broader leadership role for civil society, as one of IRIS panelists quoted that “we are more organized than our governments”

In the final part of the roundtable, Liane Adler, DG NEAR (Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programs Unit), praised the role of NGOs as service providers and in their assistance to local communities. She argued how the Enlargement process was to be considered as an important political tool for Balkan countries to guarantee respect of fundamental rights of migrants, although this was not considered as a priority in the Enlargement Package in recent years due to the fact that refugee flows stemmed from sea borne routes via the Mediterranean Sea.

Ionut Sibian, EESC, Co-chair of the EU-Serbia Joint Consultative Committee said that he believes the European Commission should improve consultations with civil society before launching a call for proposal in order to assess the real needs of organizations working on the ground. Although supporting projects is a necessity, Mr Sibian argued that operational grants should be provided to networks/ intermediary platforms who deal with complex legal and administrative practices, thus allowing the NGOs to concentrate on actual services they need to provide to refugees.

Full report and conclusions is available in round table debate report.

PPT slideshow on activities of Balkan CSO.

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