Supporting Social Investment in the Western Balkans: European Enlargement Monitoring Report 2014
The European Commission’s 2014 Enlargement Progress Reports indicates a number of positive developments in the accession countries over the past year, but it also recognises the challenges at hand. Like in the European Union, the impact of the economic crisis is being felt throughout the region, with the Western Balkans falling back into recession with dramatic consequences for people living and working in the region. The protracted depression has most visibly aggravated the already difficult social conditions. In recent past, social welfare reforms in the Western Balkans have tended to be a series of crisis-oriented solutions rarely forming a coherent strategy for the whole policy field. This “lack of coherence” in social policies shows that a new institutional framework is needed to create enabling environment that coordinates the supply of services and entitlements at every level. Such a system could be reached through the social investment policy principle strengthened by using the Instrument for Pre-Accession to support the initiatives run by civil society -particularly, community-based initiatives and community-based activities envisaged to counteract the exclusion from economic life, social services, and social networks and civic participation that can affect all members of society, not just those who are already disadvantaged or marginalised.
Within that framework, SOLIDAR and partners propose in this briefing paper five benchmarks to strengthen the social investment angle within the EU enlargement approach. These five benchmarks have been taken into account by our members and partners in the Western Balkans to provide inputs to the European Commission consultation on the Enlargement Progress Report 2014.