It is important for the voices of the people of the Western Balkans to be heard at the Conference on the Future of Europe

On 23 March 2022, Nataša Vučković, Secretary General of the Center for Democracy Foundation and Coordinator of the Working Group for the National Convention on the European Union (NCEU) for negotiation Chapters 2 (Freedom of Movement for Workers) and 19 (Social Policy and Employment) participated at the conference entitled Circular Economy, Employment, Digitalisation in light of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

As a civil society organisation, the CDF strives to be a proactive participant in the Conference on the Future of Europe process through our own regional projects, among others. These include the Balkan Youth for Europe project, through which we have sent out a call and have expressed our desire for the voices of those living in the Western Balkans to be heard loud and clear at this conference, said Vučković during the expert panel: A Stronger Economy, Social Rights and Jobs.

Furthermore, by participating in our European networks, through the activities we engage in in partnership with the European Association for Local Democracy (ALDA) which leads the democracy cluster within the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe, we have covered all topics discussed today. This includes the circular economy, the green agenda, energy transition, climate change management, etc.

We strive to incorporate the development narrative into strategic development documents which are both European and Serbian. It seems to me that Serbia has declared itself in favour of including the European Pillar of Social Rights through development strategies in all that we do. I think that we have a great opportunity to address all issues of youth unemployment through the Youth Guarantee, in particular, those youth who fall into the so-called NEET category (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), of whom there is a much higher percentage than in the European Union.

We need also to discuss the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. We must always ensure that poverty eradication, quality education, affordable healthcare, gender equality etc., are part of all forms of development. As I have always liked to point out, decent work and economic growth are defined within one SDG meaning, there is no economic growth without decent work and quality jobs.

What we have in common and the message we need to send to our counterparts in the European Union is that all these topics, the circular economy, energy transition, and climate change management, affect vulnerable groups and that these societal groups must be recognised in all policies which deal with these topics.

I wish to make the following promise on behalf of all of us at the Center for Democracy Foundation, that we will continue to send out the strong message that it is important to open new negotiating chapters i.e., new clusters. It is my hope that cluster 3 will open this year, as ultimately, it concerns economic development and employment and social policy.

The gathering was organised by the Ministry of European Integration, as a contribution of the Republic of Serbia to the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe platform.

Center for Democracy Foundation