EP conference on the Western Balkans – More efforts needed in protecting human rights, women and children

The European Parliament held a two-day seminar on the protection of human rights and the situation of women and children in the Western Balkans with the participation of MEP's and MP's from the concerned enlargement countries. Chairwoman of the conference MEP Lívia Járóka urged practical implementation of anti-discrimination legislation and more effective fight against domestic violence and trafficking in human beings.

In her introductory speech, MEP Lívia Járóka, Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality appreciated the harmonization efforts of candidate countries but also drew attention to the general slow-down of the process thus the necessity to increase their efforts. She emphasized that although each country had anti-discrimination legislation in place, the rules are not appropriately implemented and they rarely reach the vulnerable or marginalized members of society, especially the Roma. "Further work needs to be done on training the appropriate officials and allocating funds to implement the minority protecting legislation, since due to budget constraints, countries often expect civil institutions to take care of human rights issues instead of implementing governmental initiatives" – highlighted the EPP Group MEP. As an example, Járóka mentioned the still widespread phenomena of domestic violence, child labour, sex trafficking and forced begging, as well as the severe shortcomings of the juvenile justice system, that need to be addressed much more effectively.

In her closing remarks Lívia Járóka quoted the rule of law, the fight against corruption and the protection of minorities as the three main common challenges in the Western Balkans. She emphasized that strategies with policy instruments but without proper targets, benchmarks and deadlines prove nothing more than window dressing, so the EU must focus more on the implementation. She also urged to involve enlargement countries in the EU Framework for National Roma Inclusion Strategies at whatever stage of their accession, and to mobilize the Instrument on Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) and the Stabilization and Association (SAA) process to deliver results.