Enlargement Package and Progress Report Consultations: Serbia & Bosnia and Herzegovina

Last week we were invited by the European Commission’s DG Enlargement to contribute to annual consultations ahead of the 2014 Enlargement Package and Progress Reports on the candidate and potential candidate countries.

[This package sets out the way forward for the coming year and takes stock of the progress made by each of these countries. Special importance is given to stability of democratic institutions, rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.]

We presented the situation of children in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and highlighted the specific situation of children deprived of parental care, deinstitutionalisation and the work carried out through the Opening Doors Campaign in these countries.

Some positive trends were mentioned, such as an overall decrease in the numbers of children with disabilities using residential services in Serbia. However, the generally high amount of children who remain in institutions indicates that efforts to implement a coherent and comprehensive deinstitutionalisation strategy must continue to be a priority.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has witnessed positive legislative changes, such as the adoption of a Strategy on deinstitutionalisation and transformation of social protection in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the imminent adoption of the Book of Rules on Fostering in Republika Srpska. Needless to say, action plans and funds for the implementation will be essential to translate these into reality.

Poverty and unemployment, though, continue to be high and an unfortunate cause for institutionalisation of children, which is why it is essential to link DI processes to strategies to eliminate poverty and social exclusion, and to deal with legislative difficulties that limit children’s access to health care in practice in both countries.

We also discussed the situation of children of Roma origin who at an increased risk of institutionalisation and exclusion, and were happy to hear that the Roma policies will be given greater weight in accession countries too, to build more dynamic policies.

Read our full contribution here.