One of the major challenges for consolidating democratic societies in the Western Balkans is to overcome the persisting gap between civil society and party political actors. Establishing mutual trust and a culture of cooperation in order to shape policies, political campaigns and concrete initiatives for the wellbeing of society is a complex and long-term goal. This paper aims to lay the groundwork for future debate by highlighting some thought-provoking aspects. It points out that there is a strong need for further capacity-building and awareness-raising, as well as for a change of mind-set on both sides. As one of the main actors in supporting democracy, the European Union (EU) has significant leverage in the region.
Nevertheless, the observation made by this paper is that the EU has only made partial use of the potential of its instruments and programmes in order to contribute to building bridges between civil society and party political actors in the Western Balkans.
Given the unique working methods of Political Foundations, they are in a position to encourage approximation and mutual acknowledgement between the two actors. This paper therefore presents case studies and examples of their work and underlines the benefits of establishing dialogue between civil society and party political actors. On this basis, it proposes some recommendations for EU policy-makers, party political actors and civil society in the region.