Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
, addressing today the Prespa Forum Dialogue International Conference “Western Balkans: the Missing Puzzle for Completing Europe” in Ohrid, North Macedonia, explained the role of the Council of Europe in helping the region along its path to peace, prosperity and “rightful place in our common European family”. Alignment with the Council of Europe’s standards is a centrepiece of the EU accession process, she noted.
Secretary General stressed the “central and valued role” the Western Balkans countries play in the Council of Europe, and their active efforts to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, fight corruption and organised crime and strengthen the freedom of the media, as well as fight discrimination and protect the rights of the vulnerable groups. “National authorities has taken important steps to bring their legislation and practice in line with European and other international standards”, Secretary General said, citing the Council of Europe – EU Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey as one of the important mechanisms that has been supporting this. “There has been increased compliance with European standards and the EU’s acquis in all of these areas. The further progress will surely come.”
Marija Pejčinović Burić also noted confidence-building measures in Bosnia and Herzegovina carried out by the Council of Europe to support reconciliation and democratisation across the entity boundary line, involving most of the divided municipalities. “Over two decades after the end of conflict, reconciliation is still a work in progress, but that progress is clear and real and must move forward”, she said.