On Thursday 6 November, the round table : “Supporting Social Investments; The Enlargement Perspective” organised by the IRIS Network, SOLIDAR, ASB South East Europe (SEE) took place in the European Parliament involving MEPs Knut Fleckenstein (S&D), Ivo Vajgl (ALDE), and Eduard Kukan (EPP), representatives of DG Employment and Social Affairs Thomas Bender and DG Enlargement – Henk Visser, and the representatives of the European Economic and Social Committee – Ariane Rodert and Social Services Europe – Luk Zelderloo.
The main questions for debate concerned the EU Enlargement strategy and its contribution to the creation of the necessary legal frameworks for civil society organisations providing social services in the Accession Countries. Knut Fleckenstein, MEP and President of ASB, stressed that Western Balkans countries will need strong EU support to introduce the necessary reforms in preparing for EU membership.
Participants from the IRIS Network highlighted the measures that will need to be put in place, in order to strengthen the social dimension of the EU Enlargement process and to enhance the socio-economic transformation of Accession Countries. Good practices were presented that showcase how civil society organisations are working to advance social cohesion and active inclusion in the Western Balkans. As a reflection on this Ms Ariane Rodert emphasised the importance of the accessibility of funding programmes earmarked for the region.
In addition, SOLIDAR Annual Monitoring report on the EU enlargement was launched where SOLIDAR presents policy recommendations on how to foster social inclusion and support social investment in the Western Balkans region. The following recommendations have been designed in response to the European Commission’s Progress reports on the Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2014 – 2015, on October 8.
- A universal and inextricable approach to social, economic and political rights should be put in place to guarantee equal opportunities, fight discrimination and build cohesive societies.
- Accession Countries should provide assistance for those who can work to enter or re-enter and stay in employment that best relates to their capacity to work.
- Access to social services for all should be supported as a way to implement human rights and to provide adequate resources to individuals as part of consistent and comprehensive efforts to fight social exclusion
- Accession Countries should ensure that proper social support is given to those that require it, in order to promote social and economic inclusion.
- Accession Countries should strengthen national lifelong learning programmes aimed at personal, social and professional fulfilment, whilst promoting democratic values, active citizenship and intercultural dialogue.