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The article has originally been published on European Western Balkans

Photo credits: Bundeskanzlerin

BELGRADE – During her visit to the Western Balkans, for the last time as German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in addition to meeting with regional leaders, also met with representatives of civil society organizations in the Western Balkans. The focus of her visit was topics related to the Berlin Process, an initiative launched by the German Chancellor in 2014. Civil society organizations has been actively involved in the Berlin Process since 2015.

Although the meeting was held behind closed doors, some of the participants told EWB that the meeting was sincere, but also showed the importance of civil society organizations in the region.

Sonja Licht, President of Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society, told EWB that the conversation with the chancellor was meaningful and honest, not at all courteous.

“She really wanted to hear our opinions on the situation in our region as well as the Berlin Process, which she certainly sees as part of her legacy. I am convinced, after the conversation with us and everything she said during the meetings with the media in Belgrade and Tirana, that she will make an effort to continue supporting that process”, says Licht.

Licht emphasizes that the continuation of that process will primarily be reflected in the strengthening of the Common Regional Market and the implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, for which, as she says, the rule of law and democracy of institutions in which citizens trust are necessary.

“I want to emphasize that I am convinced that by organizing the meeting and how the chancellor led it, she showed that she cares about a strong and responsible civil society in the Western Balkans,” Licht said.

Jeta Krasniqi, Project Manager of the Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI), says she greatly appreciates Chancellor Merkel’s importance in her farewell tour meeting with representatives of CSOs from six Western Balkan countries.

According to Krasniqi, during the meeting, civil society could share its views on development in their countries, regional cooperation, accession, but also the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

“This meeting confirmed the important role of civil society. I hope that in the future, civil society organizations will be seen as important actors in our societies and that consultations with this sector will be an integral part of the internal policies of the Western Balkans,” said Krasniqi.

Ardian Hackaj, Executive Director of the Center for Cooperation and Development (CDI) from Tirana, told EWB that the German chancellor is very knowledgeable about each of the situations and actors in the region.

“Angela Merkel has shown great commitment to the region’s progress in reforms and membership on the road to the EU. She has also paid great attention to civil society representatives,” he concluded.

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