Freedom of expression is a key indicator of a country's readiness to become part of the EU. It implies a commitment to democracy, good governance and political accountability. No country can join the EU without guaranteeing freedom of expression as a basic human right (Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty)
A complex challenge
Ensuring freedom of expression and of the media is one of the main challenges facing enlargement countries. Political interference in the media, economic concerns such as media concentration and various forms of harassment, including violence against journalists, are topical issues in societies of the Western Balkans and Turkey. Improving this situation inevitably goes beyond a simple transposition of EU rules: it calls for behavioural and cultural change in politics, judiciary and media.
The EU supports this process by
- providing legal assistance and guidance in drafting media legislation
- thoroughly monitoring the policies of candidate countries and potential candidates in this field
- providing financial support through IPA programmes
Guidelines for EU support to media freedom and media integrity
The Guidelines build on the policy vision as set out in the Conclusions of the Speak-up!2 conference and the EU Enlargement Strategy 2013-2014. The document translates the political objectives into a tangible "Results Framework" which identifies the outcomes to be achieved as well as the indicators to monitor them.
The Guidelines, which have been largely consulted with relevant groups, aim to provide consistency between policy support and assistance at both multi-country and national level.
To this end, three main groups need to be mobilised and targeted by support:
- state institutions in charge of setting up an enabling environment for free expression in media
- media professional organisations which are key drivers of awaited change
- individual media outlets expected to improve their internal governance and performance.
In 2017, the EU funded projectTechnical Assistance for Civil Society Organisations (TACSO), in coordination with other stakeholders, established a monitoring system to draw up a systematic, comprehensive and efficient assessment of the situation in the candidates countries and potential candidates by applying the same methodology and approach across the region. The 2017 monitoring report (cf. also the PowerPoint presentation) offers a brief overview of common issues in the region, as well findings from the general population survey conducted in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia regarding selected aspects of the Results Framework.
EU financial support
EU financial support for freedom of the media is granted through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The most recent EU funded initiatives include:
- Network of journalist associations – building the capacity of journalist professional organisations and a regional early warning platform reporting cases of attacks against journalists
- Building Trust in Media - a project reinforcing media accountability mechanisms – supporting press councils and ethical journalism, increasing media governance through ethical audits and good governance seminars, strengthening media and information literacy through training and awareness raising campaigns.
- Reinforcing Judicial Expertise - support to the judiciary in applying the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in the field of freedom of expression and training on ethical rules to the media regulatory authorities and media outlets.
- EU award scheme for investigative journalism – prizes for the best investigative stories covering a wide range of topics from the misuse of power to social injustice.
EU - Western Balkans Media Days
Launched in 2017 by the European Commission, the EU – Western Balkans Media Days aim to ensure that media freedom remains a priority while tackling the complexity of pressing political, economic and social issues the region experience at present. Moreover, the forum has reached out to the professional challenges of journalists and media: their need to adapt to a rapidly changing media environment. The conference aims at having result-oriented discussions that could afterwards be reflected in adjusted assistance approaches to media related issues within the European enlargement policy.
This year’s edition intends to take stock of what has been achieved since the first edition, including a launch of some new EU funded initiatives. Business models, regional cooperation but also challenges caused by the increasing manipulation of the information space, will also be discussed during the event. For the first time, the EU Western Balkans Media Days, will also involve political representatives in the region directly in charge of information and media for a “Policy meets media” discussion.
Media Days September 2019 – useful documents and links
- Video trailer
- Press release
- Web release – announcement of the conference
- EU Enlargement Package 2018: freedom of expression - information society and media
- Factograph – EU support to Media in the Western Balkans
- Opening speech by Commissioner Johannes Hahn
- Closing speech by Commissioner Johannes Hahn
- Video gallery
- Photo gallery
- Graphic report: event flow
- Graphic report: Workshop - Professionalisation through education and training
- Graphic report: Workshop - Business sustainability of independent journalism through smart media investment
- Graphic report: Workshop - Regional cooperation of independent media and public broadcasters in the region
- Workshops Recommendations
The EU-Western Balkans Media Days took place in Tirana, Albania, on 9-10 November 2017 gathering over 250 representatives of media outlets and media-organisations, as well as policymakers from the EU and the Western Balkans, to discuss about freedom of expression, economic sustainability of the media sector, and the role of media in the accession process. Two panels and six workshops provided a platform for media professionalism to exchange views and share best practices. The conference paved the way for new forward-looking initiatives to foster independent, sustainable and professional media in the region.
- Recommendations from workshops
- Conference brochure
- Video trailer
- Web announcement
- Press release
- EBS video recording: opening speech
- EBS video recording: concluding remarks
- Graphic report: event flow
- Graphic report: workshops
Graphic report: workshops
Graphic report: event flow
» Webcast recordings of the whole conference (+download option)
» Europe by Satellite recordings of Opening, Session 1 + 4, Concluding debate (+ download option)
» Photo album on the DG Enlargement Facebook Page
Programme & Participants
Conclusions & Recommendations by The Chair
Presentations & Speeches