The director of the Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia, Saša Stefanović together with Ira Raković, a representative of the Association “Our Children” from Zenica and the Network of NGOs for Children in Bosnia and Herzegovina “Stronger Voice for Children”, paid a working visit to Brussels from 21 to 23 May. The visit was carried out within the project “Young with a Voice” implemented by the Association for Development of Children and Youth “Open Club” with the financial support of the European Union. The aim of the visit was to present the situation related to child rights in the countries of the Western Balkans to the representatives of relevant bodies of the European Union.
During their stay in Brussels, Saša Stefanović and Ira Raković met with the officials of the Unit for the Fundamental Rights of the Directorate-General for Justice and the Unit for the Western Balkans of the Directorate General for Enlargement, the coordinator of the Intergroup for Child Rights of the European Parliament and the representatives of the European network Eurochild.
Children rights as a special area in programme, but still no National Plan of Action
During the meeting with the interlocutors, Saša Stefanović informed them about the fact that the rights of the child are set as a special area in the Program of the Government of the Republic of Serbia in 2016, but still, the process of drafting a new National Plan of Action for Children has not been initiated yet and the capacities of the Council for Child Rights have not been strengthened, even though it is the obligation arising from the Action plan for Chapter 23.
It was pointed out that the priority of the national networks of organizations for the rights of the child in the countries of the Western Balkans is to make sure that the situation of children, especially those from vulnerable groups, is put at the top of the agenda of European Integration processes. In relation to that, there was a discussion on the situation of children in residential accommodation as well as the processes of transformation of social protection institutions and development of community services.
The officials of the institutions from Brussels were interested in the situation of children of refugees / migrants and in the situation of unaccompanied children in particular, as well as the situation of children who do not have identity documents and citizenship.
The area of child protection has an important place in Chapter 23 negotiations, which includes basic rights, as well as Chapter 19 concerning social policy and social inclusion. In this regard, the participant of the meetings agreed on further cooperation in the monitoring of fulfillment of children rights in Serbia having in mind the obligations arising from the EU accession process.
Officials of the Directorate-General have expressed their interest in exchanging information with MODS and its member organizations related to the implementation of measures needed to protect the rights of the child that have been foreseen by the Action Plan for Chapter 23, as well as the Action Plan for Chapter 19, which is in the process of making.