BELGRADE – Second day of the “Move. Link. Engage.” conference, organized by the Belgrade Open School and Office for cooperation with civil society, brought the representatives of civil society and media together to discuss the impact they and their colleagues have on the European integration process.
The second panel, titled “Civil Society as a Force for Change in the EU Accession Process”, was moderated by Ana Stevanović Zdravev from Belgrade Open School.
The role of media in the process was particularly emphasised by Nikola Marković, associate at the news portal Južne vesti. The role of media, he said, is not to promote EU integration, for it is a political decision. It is to create alliances and partnerships in creating better future.
“Role of the media is to raise awareness and to start a debate”, Marković said, but they should to that on the level of the citizens, using the examples close to them. That is the only way to engage them successfully.
He also stressed the importance of education. “Just through the stories created in collaboration with Belgrade Open School, Južne vesti have reached one million citizens”, he underlined.
His colleague, Jelena Vasić, journalist at the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK), used her speech to point out at the pressures faced by Serbian journalists.
“Investigative journalists get punished for their work. Institutions are working for the politicians and not the citizens”, she said.
She agreed with Marković’s assessment that, “in the past, journalists were murdered, and now it is journalism that is being murdered”.
The most important problem her network and other investigative journalists face are not negative reactions, but a complete lack of reactions, she added.
Limitations of civil society organizations in the integration process were the main part of the speech by Nikola Božić, member of the board of Young Researchers Serbia.
The first limitation, he pointed out, is the lack of cooperation from the government. For example, Serbia’s negotiating position for the Chapter 27 (Environment) was sent to Brussels, but only a few CSOs were allowed to have an insight into it.
There is also the problem of funding. “There are just a few donors who are ready to support civil society”, Božić stated.
One of the speakers was also Ola Andersson, Counsellor at Sweden’s Embassy to Belgrade. He stated that the main goal of his country’s work is helping Serbian partners on their accession path and emphasised the role of civil society, the most important aspect of which is the engagement of citizens.
Parallel sessions on four different integration topics: connectivity, youth employment, energy and “fundamental firsts”, are scheduled to take place after the panel.