The EU Civil Society Forum for Western Balkans and Türkiye 2024, an essential annual event organised by the EU TACSO 3 project on behalf of the European Commission, Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), commenced today in Belgrade, Serbia. Bringing together over 150 participants, including representatives from civil society, EU officials, government authorities and international partners, the event serves as a key platform for sharing insights and developing strategies to foster the growth of civil society in the region.

This year’s Forum is particularly significant, focusing on the new opportunities presented by the EU’s EUR 6 billion New Growth Plan for the Western Balkans and the role of civil society in the Reform and Growth Facility.

A major highlight of the Forum is the launch of the Second Assessment against the DG NEAR Guidelines for EU Support to Civil Society in the Enlargement Region for 2023, offering a detailed analysis of both progress and challenges encountered by civil society across the region.

The 2023 Assessment Report indicates modest progress since 2021 yet highlights that significant challenges remain, especially in legal environments, public funding transparency, and cooperation between civil society and government entities.

Here are the key findings from the report:

  • While the legal environment for civil society to carry out its activities is in place, and legal frameworks generally support civil society operations, there has been a worrying regression in certain areas. In Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, the deterioration of the enabling environment indicates a challenging situation for civil society activities.
  • Confidence in the transparency and fairness of public funding has seen a slight improvement from 12% in 2021 to 15% in 2023. Despite this marginal increase, the percentage remains low, indicating substantial distrust regarding how public funds are awarded to civil society organisations. This suggests that much work remains to enhance the transparency of funding processes.
  • There has been no significant change in the quality of cooperation between civil society and public institutions, with some regions experiencing a decline, notably Serbia. The percentage of CSOs perceiving public officials’ attitudes as supportive decreased from 38% in 2021 to 34% in 2023, reflecting an ongoing challenge in fostering positive government-CSO relations.

The Forum was officially opened by the State Secratary in the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue of Serbia, Mr. Ivan Bošnjak, and the Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, H.E. Emanuele Giaufret. Their remarks highlighted the ongoing need for enhanced support and transparency, crucial for maximising the role of civil society in the region’s democratic development.

Ambassador Giaufret stressed: “In the region legal frameworks are in place to support civil society operations, however more needs to be done to create a conducive and safe environment for civil society to thrive. Increased transparency, fairness and competitiveness in distribution of public funding as well as an open and continuous dialogue between the authorities and civil society are needed to foster inclusiveness and participatory democracy. Civil society organisations are crucial to monitor and promote key aspects of the EU integration process such as fundamental rights, rule of law and democratic institutions.”

Secratary Bošnjak stated: “The Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, in its new mandate, continues to work on improving cooperation between the public and civil sectors and creating a stimulating environment for the development of civil society. Also, we continue to strengthen capacities and empower all actors in this process to better understand each other, familiarise themselves with procedures and mechanisms, so that they can cooperate better and more successfully and make decisions together that benefit all citizens. We emphasise that mutual respect and cooperation of the public, private and civil sectors is a necessary factor for all perspectives of a democratic society, which we expect, in the Serbian case, to lead to the implementation of the Growth Plan and faster European integration of the Republic of Serbia.”

The Coordinator of the National Convention on the EU (NCEU) Bojana Selaković said: Civil society needs more support of European actors to monitor and expedite the reform processes. For civil society to be a constructive partner to governments and support their positive steps in the European integration process, criticisms from its side need to be taken in good faith. This is the only way to rebuild trust in the enlargement process and maintain the credibility of civil society among citizens.

The EU continue to reaffirm its position as the largest supporter of civil society in the Western Balkans and Türkiye, manifesting its commitment through substantial financial and strategic support. Over the period 2021-2023, the Civil Society and Media Facility alone committed over EUR 200 million, underscoring the EU’s deep commitment to fostering participatory democracies and supporting the EU approximation process across the region.

Throughout the three days of the Forum, participants will also engage actively in World Café sessions to discuss topics they have proposed, fostering a dynamic and interactive environment for exchange and collaboration.

For more information about the EU Civil Society Forum for Western Balkans and Türkiye 2024, including a detailed agenda and upcoming sessions, visit the event page.

The public and all those interested in the future of civil society in the EU enlargement region are encouraged to read the full Second Assessment against the DG NEAR Guidelines for EU Support to Civil Society in the Enlargement Region for 2023 check out the official page of EU TACSO 3 at

About EU TACSO 3:

Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organisations (TACSO) project is an EU-funded initiative that enhances capacities and strengthens the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in democratic processes in the Western Balkans and Türkiye. For more information, visit