Recommendations for the Sofia Summit

Western Balkans Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights

3 November 2020

As we approach the Sofia Summit scheduled to take place in November 2020, the Civil Society Platform for Democracy and Human Rights (CSP) shares the key findings and recommendations from its research undertaken in 2020, focusing on the progress made by the WB6 governments towards fulfilling their pledges since London and Poznań Summits. The research is one of the actions taken within the CSP’s pledge to assuming greater responsibility for monitoring the Berlin Process agendas, holding the WB Six (WB6) governments accountable for implementing recommendations from the Berlin Process Summits and meeting EU integration criteria.

Findings point to the direction that despite existing challenges and gaps, the Berlin Process as a whole has had a considerable positive impact on the Region. It has managed to redirect the focus of the EU back on the WB6 countries and start a high-level dialogue on equal terms between EU-WB6 leaders, reviving the region’s declining interest in EU integration. It has placed the Region on a stable position on the EU infrastructure map, united the regional civil society under joint causes, and highlighted the role of citizens and youth in promoting dialogue and social change. It has also brought the issue of reconciliation and transitional justice back on the table, raising it as a matter not only of regional but also international importance, as emphasised within the proceedings of the 2020 Zagreb Summit.

Evidence shows, however, that specific factors are slowing down or discouraging progress: 

- In many cases, there is political ambition, but no genuine will;

- Specific pledges made in the field of security and the fight against organised crime have been unrealistic in the way they were initially planned, in terms of both time and capacity;

- Entrenched habits, stereotypes and obsolete mentalities of ‘doing things’ get in the way of achieving progress and interregional cooperation;

- The Berlin Process has no built-in steering and monitoring mechanism and hosting member states, ad hoc, have no authority to act in an oversight capacity. While it is possible to a certain extent to assess the technical and economic progress made within the Berlin Process, it is extremely difficult to evaluate social change;

- There is a lack of clarity on how the ‘stocktaking’ of each Summit takes place and how previous Summits inform the agendas of the forthcoming Summits;

- The outbreak of the pandemic exposed a Region which was completely vulnerable and unable to support its citizens. 

As the Sofia Summit is the 7th annual gathering, what is expected from the WB countries is to take the necessary steps to move the Berlin Process forward by translating pledges into concrete action. In order to step up the reputation and importance of these summits, the focus must shift to issues regarding, monitoring and visibility, commitment and responsibility, and consistency. Therefore, we request the 2020 Sofia Summit Agenda include:

• The implementation of a Monitoring and Visibility Framework to compare and classify whether WB6 governments are holding up to their pledges;

• A shift to legally binding pledges to bolster the Commitment as well as taking Responsibility for the promises being made. Even if this results in a slower pace of progress as WB6 countries scale down their more ambitious commitments. The results may be more concrete than previously seen;

• Consistency is a key factor in the success and viability of the Berlin Process. WB6 governments should refrain from engaging in contradicting actions of sabotaging each other’s progress which do not serve the spirit of good neighbourly relations, cooperation, and peace. The recent flares of nationalist rhetoric across the region only serve to divide the societies and stifle progress being made towards EU integration;

• At a time when the COVID-19 is continuing to have massive impact in the most vulnerable sections of the societies in the Region, the WB6 governments should step up joint efforts to alleviate the negative socioeconomic impact of the crisis, and to build more just, sustainable and democratic societies.

Find below the downloadable/printable pdf version of the recommendations and reply by the Commissioner Varhelyi: