Western Balkans Summit needs positive accession message from EU

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) welcomes today’s EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit going ahead. But despite the recent positive decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, a broader message on positive prospects of the future of the accession process for the Western Balkans is missing.

The Summit hopefully will strengthen political dialogue and socio-economic cooperation between the EU and the region and show solidarity and joint effort in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU leaders, while acknowledging the progress the region has achieved in the past and exchanging views on cooperation to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, should emphasise the need for political and economic reforms, contributing to prosperity and security in in the region and in the whole Europe. ETUC calls on Western Balkan leaders to recognise that Social Dialogue with trade unions and employers, collective bargaining, workers’ participation and occupational safety and health standards play an essential role in the response to the crisis and in economic growth.

ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said “While it is good that the Summit is going ahead the EU should give a clear and positive message on the prospects for accession for the countries of the Western Balkans.”  

“The ETUC calls on the European Commission to put forward a robust economic and investment plan for the region to boost the economies and job creation, strengthen their health and public services and improve the quality of work and life of people in the Western Balkans.”

To achieve these goals, the ETUC invites the EU and Western Balkan countries’ leaders to follow the ETUC recommendations on dealing with COVID 19 and its disastrous impact on  jobs and employment, including to fully involve Western Balkan trade unions and employers  in the design and implementation of any Recovery Strategy and related funds and measures.