Balkans

BALKAN PARTNERSHIPS – Strengthening the region’s ties

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Balkan nations face an array of domestic and external challenges as they grapple with the sudden arrival of refugees using the region to head northwards. The crisis in Ukraine and the return of Cold War rivalries cast a dark shadow over nations even as the EU pushes the pause button on Balkan membership aspirations.  There is, however, a new – but fragile – mood of cooperation in the region as countries step up their transport and energy connections and foreign investors seek out business opportunities despite continuing economic uncertainties.

In the framework of this European Policy Summit, Friends of Europe and the European Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung have been addressing issues affecting the Balkans for over a decade, enabling senior policymakers from the region to share their concerns and ideas with EU and member state policymakers.

Join the discussion on Twitter using #FutureEU.

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Read our report on Balkan Partnerships – Strengthening the region’s ties below. If it fails to load, or if you would prefer to read it offline, then you can also download a PDF version of the report.

You my also wish to view highlights from this event. Click here to visit the report page.

Background reading

South East Europe: a few thoughts on energy related investments by Slavtcho Neykov / Chairman of the Board of Managers, Energy Management Institute
/ NIS 2014 Report on Sustainable Development

Podcasts

Session I

Session II

Session III

Subscribe to Friends of Europe’s podcast service on Itunes. Android users can download Podomatic app on GooglePlay and search for Friends of Europe.

Photo gallery

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Video

Session I – BALKAN PARTNERSHIPS

Session II – BALKAN PARTNERSHIPS

Session III – BALKAN PARTNERSHIPS

Programme

08.30 – 09.00 Welcome coffee and registration of participants

The governments of the Western Balkan nations are facing a range of common yet potentially divisive threats. The most immediate is the unprecedented flood of refugees and economic migrants heading northwards and imposing severe strains on Balkan transit countries. These tensions would be more damaging still were it not for a sense of greater political maturity in the region, along with a shared commitment to eventual EU accession. There are also other external difficulties piling on top of familiar internal ones like poor governance, weak rule of law and faltering economic progress. The Ukraine crisis and the return of Cold War animosities is reviving centuries-old loyalties, and, perhaps endangering conflict resolution mechanisms in Kosovo¹ and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Overlaying all these challenges there is Brussels’ “enlargement standstill” until 2019 at earliest, and the risk that this may see a slowing of reform efforts in the candidate countries.

Featuring

Fatmir Besimi / Deputy Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Heaven Crawley / Chair in International Migration at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) at the Coventry University

Johannes Hahn / EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations

Ivan Korčok / Slovak State Secretary for Foreign and European Affairs and Plenipotentiary of Slovakia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU

Co-moderated by

Stefan Gehrold / Director of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) European Office

Shada Islam / Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

10.15 – 10.45 Coffee break

The severe flooding that hit the Danube Basin countries in 2014 triggered a wave of intra-Balkan cooperation as governments, local authorities and communities joined forces with the EU and agencies like the UNDP to strengthen defences against future disasters. This has since been followed by a new mood of partnerships and policy collaborations between the six Western Balkan nations grouped within the Regional Cooperation Council. Heavy emphasis was laid at the Western Balkans summit in Vienna at the end of August on transport and energy inter-connections that will create powerful economic synergies as well as badly needed new jobs. The global recession has reportedly doubled the average unemployment rate in the region to around 40%, and with incomes still at only a third of Western European levels the pressures for cross-border partnerships are more insistent than ever.

Featuring

Arban Abrashi / Kosovo’s Minister of Labour and Social Welfare¹

Ditmir Bushati / Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs

Igor Crnadak / Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs

Goran Svilanović / Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)

Rastislav Vrbensky / Manager of the Istanbul Regional Hub for Europe and the CIS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Co-moderated by :

Giles Merritt / Secretary General at Friends of Europe

Shada Islam / Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

12.00 – 12.30 Coffee break

The word is that attractive business opportunities now await foreign investors in the Balkans. Turkey’s private sector has in recent years expanded its trade and investments in the region sixfold to $17bn, and the major steelmaker ArcelorMittal is championing its own involvement there. IMF analysts have paid tribute to what they say is the region’s “major economic transformation over the past 15 years.” But the other side of the coin has been the economic damage wreaked by the worldwide slowdown, with the result that foreign direct investment (FDI) has in fact been running at only two-thirds of 2007 levels. The challenge for Balkan countries is now to help would-be investors to identify opportunities ranging from niche markets to infrastructural necessities and then smooth their way through their uncertain business and legal environments. Their shared target of raising added-value in manufacturing from today’s 12% to 29% by the end of this decade may look highly ambitious, but attaining it will depend on creating a truly Balkan marketplace.

Featuring

Tanja Fajon MEP / Member of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Kosovo¹ and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Vladimir Kavaric / Montenegro’s Minister of Economy

Kirill Kravchenko / Chief Executive of NIS

Alan Paic / Head of the OECD Investment Compact for South East Europe

Co-moderated by :

Giles Merritt / Secretary General at Friends of Europe

Shada Islam / Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

13.30 End of the conference

This event is organised by Friends of Europe, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in association with NIS and with media partner Europe’s World.

¹This designation is without prejudice to position on status, and is in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1244/99 and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence. For the UNDP, the references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of the Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).

Speakers

  • Johannes Hahn

    EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations

  • Arban Abrashi

    Kosovo’s Minister of Labour and Social Welfare¹

  • Fatmir Besimi

    Deputy Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

  • Ditmir Bushati

    Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs

  • Heaven Crawley

    Chair in International Migration at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR), Coventry University

  • Igor Crnadak

    Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs

  • Tanja Fajon MEP

    Member of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Kosovo¹ and Trustee of Friends of Europe

  • Vladimir Kavaric

    Montenegro’s Minister of Economy

  • Ivan Korčok

    Slovak State Secretary for Foreign and European Affairs and Plenipotentiary of Slovakia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU

  • Kirill Kravchenko

    Chief Executive of NIS

  • Alan Paic

    Head of the OECD Investment Compact for South East Europe

  • Goran Svilanović

    Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)

  • Rastislav Vrbensky

    Manager of the Istanbul Regional Hub for Europe and the CIS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Partners

Co-organised by

Konrad Adenauer Stiftung          UNDP

Associated partners

          Delta Holding

Media partner

Europe's World

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