WESTERN BALKANS AT A CROSSROADS

New challenges, changing dynamics

05 December 2017 - 09:00 - 13:30
Edi Rama, Aleksandar Bogdanovic, Christian Danielsson, Tanja Fajon, Michele Giacomelli, Lejla Ibranovic, Nadežda Kokotovic, Thomas Mayr Harting, Miguel Morgado, Andrew Plitt, Ares Shporta, Erna Šoševic, Ayşe Cihan Sultanoğlu, Goran Svilanović, Arben Taravari, Vesna Travljanin
Introduction

The future of the Western Balkans is an issue that is moving swiftly up the European agenda. But rising instability, territorial disputes and ethnic rivalries mean many in Europe fear a return to war and conflict in the region. And with more than one in five people unemployed, the region still has many reforms to make.

Democracy, peace and stability, as well economic development and integration in the Western Balkans, depends not only on the policies and actions of national governments but on regional, municipal and city authorities. But with the Western Balkan states now clearly at a crossroads between EU accession and maintaining the status quo, it isn’t clear which course these decision-makers will take.

In the framework of this annual event, now in its 18th year, Friends of Europe and its partners have been addressing issues affecting the Balkans, enabling senior policymakers from the region to share their concerns and ideas with EU and member state policymakers. Our Balkans series has welcomed presidents, prime ministers and ministers, as well as a few hundred key representatives from the EU institutions, member states, business representatives and civil society.

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Western Balkans at a crossroads

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Podcast

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Programme
08.30 – 09.00

Welcome coffee and registration of participants

09.00 - 10.00

SESSION I: PEACE, DEMOCRACY AND RECONCILIATION

While their membership of the European Union is progressing slowly, countries in the Western Balkans are moving swiftly up the European agenda. Given rising instability, territorial disputes and ethnic rivalries in the region, many in Europe fear a return to war and conflict in the Western Balkans. The governments in the Western Balkans complain of European neglect and frustration at being kept outside the EU, though the region has become a “chessboard” for competing influence by Russia, Turkey, China and other countries. Top EU policymakers continue to insist that the Western Balkans are part of Europe and that reconciliation and democratization have to be the main focus. With the Western Balkan states now clearly at a crossroads between EU accession and retaining the status quo, it isn’t clear where the region is heading.

  • What are the main reasons for the return of nationalism and ethnic tensions in the region and how can the Western Balkans be persuaded to look forward instead of at their past to enable movements beyond ethnical and nationality-based politics?
  • Having put a halt to further enlargement for the moment, what strategic tools does the EU have to ensure peace and deepening democratization in the Western Balkans?
  • Given current tensions in the region, what is the state of efforts at regional economic integration including the Connectivity Agenda, energy networks and the building of stronger links between young people?
  • How can open dialogue, reconciliation and democratization, civil space and a free and fair media be further enables in the Western Balkans?
  • What are the main security challenges in the region, especially regarding the influence of external actors?

Speakers include

Edi Rama, Prime Minister, Albania
Ayse Cihan Sultanoglu, Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 
Michele Giacomelli, Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Process, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy 
Thomas Mayr Harting, Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service (EEAS)
Andrew Plitt, Senior Development Advisor, United States European Command (EUCOM)

Moderated by

Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe 

10.00 – 10.30

Coffee break

10.30 - 11.30

SESSION II: BUSINESS OUTLOOK PERKS UP BUT REFORMS MUST CONTINUE

Countries in the Western Balkans are growing at a faster pace than in 2015, with regional growth projected to be 2.8 percent in 2016 and 3.2 percent in 2017, according to the World Bank. Growth and employment have increased especially in countries that have made significant progress in economic reforms and improved the environment for domestic and foreign investments. The unemployment rate is still estimated at around 22 percent, however, indicating that the region has to stay the course on reform. The European Commission has called on prime ministers from the six states to create a truly regional economic area that attracts investments and leads to trade barriers removals, jobs creation, thereby boosting their chances of eventually joining the EU.

  • Can young entrepreneurs be a vehicle for promoting new society values in the region such as integrity, creativity, problem solving, leadership, collaboration and what are governments and regional institutions doing to equip youth with these skills?
  • Are the governments in the Western Balkans doing enough to tackle the problems that hold back the region’s private sector, including the high levels of corruption and concerns of elite capture in the public and private sectors?
  • What are the biggest obstacles that face businesses in the Western Balkans in their day-to-day operations and is the situation improving?
  • Is there any progress on fulfilling the EU’s vision of a “single space” for economic development?
  • How can regional networks, systems and initiatives engage and contribute to the Europeanisation of SMEs, by promoting access to innovation, technology transfers and alternative financing?

Speakers include
Christian Danielsson, European Commission Director-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
Lejla Ibranovic, Executive Director at Transparency International, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Nadežda Kokotovic, Head EU representative at Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS) 
Miguel Morgado, Director for the Adriatic Sea Region at the European Investment Bank (EIB)
Erna Šoševic, Chief Executive Officer of Bizbook.ba, an online business platform for companies primarily focused on economics 
Goran Svilanovic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council  (RCC)         

Moderated by
Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe 
 

11.30 - 12.00

Coffee break

12.00 - 12.30

Sevdalinka concert by Božo Vréco
Traditional genre of folk music from Bosnia and Herzegovina

This concert has been made possible by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).

12.30 - 13.30

SESSION III: THINK LOCAL, ACT REGIONAL
Get local governments on board and improve interconnectivity

Democracy, peace and stability as well economic development and integration and interconnectivity in the Western Balkans does not just depend on the policies and actions of national governments but also on the role of regional, municipal and city authorities. Capacitated local governments with authority and sufficient financial resources have a key role in developing regional and cross-border economies, managing EU funds and implementing EU legislation and reforms. In fact, while national governments and international institutions focus on problems across the Western Balkans States, cities and regions have been implementing solutions.  Local authorities are responsible for measures to ensure economic and social progress, support the fight against climate change as well as for helping enforce democracy and the rule of law. But even as local governments in the Western Balkans become increasingly active economic and political players, with increased responsibilities, they continue to face challenges due to decentralization, a mismatch of revenue and expenditure management, a lack of infrastructure investments, and weak local institutions.

  • What can the European Union do to help increase local cooperation within the Western Balkan States?
  • What is being done to ensure decentralisation reforms are fully implemented and financial as well as others capacities of local government actors and civil society are strengthened to address key challenges, such as air pollution, effective public services delivery and local economic development ?
  • Are regional and city authorities across the region working together on common interests and challenges including fostering links among youth as well as questions of corruption, good governance and investment strategies?
  • What is the specific role of Balkan local authorities in the EU enlargement process and how can it be bolstered?

Speakers include
Aleksandar Bogdanovic, Mayor of Old Royal Capital of Cetinje and the President of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro 
Tanja Fajon, Member of European Parliament Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo** 
Ares Shporta, Founder and Executive Director of the Lumbardhi Foundation and Member of the Government Council for Cooperation with Civil Society, Kosovo**
Arben Taravari, Mayor of Gostivar; and former Minister for Health of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Vesna Travljanin, Secretary General of the Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Moderated by
Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe

13.30

End of summit

Moderator
Shada Islam
Director Europe & Geopolitics
Shada Islam is responsible for policy oversight of Friends of Europe’s initiatives, activities and publications. She has special responsibility for the Asia Programme and for the Development Policy Forum. Shada is the former Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and has previously worked on Asian issues at the European Policy Centre. She is closely involved with initiatives to promote Asia-Europe exchanges including within the context of ASEM (Asia Europe Meetings). As a journalist, Shada also worked extensively on development questions including relations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states as well as on world trade, including the Doha Round. Shada continues to write on EU foreign and security policy, EU-Asia relations and trade and development issues for leading Asian, European and international publications.
Speakers
Edi Rama
Prime Minister, Albania
With a remarkably rich and diverse career path, Edi Rama’s involvement in the public and political life of Albania starts with his active participation in the movement for democracy that led to the dismantling of the communist regime in Albania. As Prime Minister, Rama continuously plays an important part in the political life of Albania, notably through the implementation of numerous reforms, including the restructuring of the country’s judiciary and law enforcement. Prior to his appointment as Prime Minister, he was Mayor of Tirana for 11 years, where he contributed to the modernisation of the city.
Aleksandar Bogdanovic
Mayor of Old Royal Capital of Cetinje and the President of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro
Aleksandar Bogdanovic is the Mayor of Old Royal Capital Cetinje, the historic capital of Montenegro. He also served as President of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro. As such, he plays a key role in the development of local democracy and local government. Bogdanovic has extensive experience in the Montenegrin government, having served as spokesperson of the Ministry of Economy and Economic Advisor to the President.
Christian Danielsson
European Commission Director-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
A Swedish diplomat with over 20 years of experience at the European Commission, Christian Danielsson held several key positions alongside Commissioners, Vice-Presidents and at the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, where he now serves as Director-General. Danielsson is an important player in the EU Enlargement process, previously managing and coordinating the accession processes of Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey. 
Tanja Fajon
Member of European Parliament Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo
Tanja Fajon is a politician and journalist, currently serving as Member of the European Parliament. A passionate advocate of freedom of movement and its economic benefits, Fajon was previously the European Parliament rapporteur on the visa liberalisation process for the Western Balkans. In this position, she was instrumental in helping Albania as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina win the right to visa-free travel to Europe.
Michele Giacomelli
Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Process, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy
With over 30 years of experience in Italian diplomacy, Michele Giacomelli was nominated in 2016 to serve as Italy’s Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Process, ahead of the Balkan Summit which took place in Trieste in July 2017. As such, Giacomelli represents Italy across Europe and the Western Balkan region, to help push forward the priorities set by previous summits of the Berlin Process, strengthening ties between the region and the EU.
Lejla Ibranovic
Executive Director at Transparency International, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Leijla Ibarnovic leads Transparency International’s office in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the global civil society organisation on the forefront of the fight against corruption. As such she has profound knowledge of the anti-corruption legal framework, its institutional and regulatory setup, as well as professional experience in developing analyses and policies in the areas of good governance, anti-corruption and corporate governance.
Nadežda Kokotovic
Head EU representative at Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS)
Nadežda Kokotovic has 15 years of experience in advocacy within the oil and gas industry as well as the NGO sector in Europe. She now serves as the EU Representative of NIS, the only Western Balkan company to have an office in Brussels, where she works to help build the reputation of a reliable and transparent European energy company. Prior to her current position, she worked as Chief of Staff to NIS’s CEO in Belgrade. 
Thomas Mayr Harting
Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service (EEAS)
During  the course of his career, Thomas Mayr Harting held various positions within the Austrian diplomatic service, working across New York, Moscow and Brussels. He now serves as Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia in the European External Action Service, which aims to secure stable, prosperous and well-functioning democratic societies on a steady path towards EU integration for the Western Balkan region.
Miguel Morgado
Director for the Adriatic Sea Region at the European Investment Bank (EIB)
Miguel Morgado is Director for the Adriatic Sea Region at the European Investment Bank (EIB) since January 2016. As such, he is in charge of the EIB’s operations in the Western Balkans. The EIB is the leading international lender in the region, having financed projects totalling €6.4bn in the last decade and having played a key role in the reconstruction of the region. Morgado previously served as Head of the Portuguese lending division and as Director of the Operations Support Department.
Andrew Plitt
Senior Development Adviser, United States European Command (EUCOM)
Andrew Plitt is a leading expert in development, relief, reconstruction and stabilisation. As Senior Development Advisor, he is responsible for providing advice and counsel to the Combatant Commander leading the United States European Command – a crucial actor in the redevelopment of the Balkans. Plitt has more than 25 years’ experience at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), having previously served as Director of the Office of North African and Arabian Affairs.
Ares Shporta
Founder and Executive Director of the Lumbardhi Foundation and Member of the Government Council for Cooperation with Civil Society, Kosovo
Ares Shporta is a cultural worker and civil society activist based in Prizren, Kosovo. Shporta has formerly led networks of cultural organisations at local and central level, has been part of numerous civic initiatives and advocacy campaigns and has authored the ‘Cultural Strategy of Prizren Municipality 2017-2020’. His work area and interests include participatory polic-making at the local level and exploring new institutional and multi-stakeholder models of governance.
Erna Šoševic
Chief Executive Officer of Bizbook.ba, an online business platform for companies primarily focused on economics
Erna Šoševic is the Founder and CEO of Bizbook.ba, an online B2B platform offering companies a new way of doing business, communication, and reducing their operating costs in the Western Balkans. She left the world of the traditional business environment where she worked over 10 years to become one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rare women to found their own business. Šoševic is a strong advocate for female entrepreneurship and encouraging youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina to create their own jobs.
Ayşe Cihan Sultanoğlu
Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
In her more than 30-year career with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ayse Cihan Sultanoglu has experience in capacity building and public policy, having held positions in the USA, in Asia, in Africa and in the Arab States. She was appointed UNDP Assistant Secretary-General and Director for Europe by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012, and since then, has been working towards successful cooperation between the Regional Bureau and the UN system agencies and international financial organisations.
Goran Svilanović
Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)
Goran Svilanović plays a leading role in the promotion and enhancement of regional cooperation in the Western Balkans. A Serbian diplomat and politician, he previously held the positions of Coordinator of the Economic and Environmental Activities at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Arben Taravari
Mayor of Gostivar; and former Minister for Health of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
As Mayor of the Municipality of Gostivar, Arben Taravari’s programme focuses on a “Policy of citizens”, aiming to include citizens in the decision making process of his municipality. Prior to his election, Taravari has spent his entire professional career in the Macedonian health sector and has published a number of books and theses. He notably served as the Minister of Health until October 2017, where he has received high recognition from the Macedonian citizens for his transparent and fair governance.
Vesna Travljanin
Secretary General of the Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Vesna Travljanin is the Director of the AMC- FBiH, a not-for-profit organisation regrouping cities across the country and fighting for the development and the improvement of local government. The Association is a key actor in promoting democratic and efficient local government. Travljanin is also a member of the Governing Board of the Network of Associations of South East Europe (NALAS) and has previously worked at the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina  and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Partners
           
KAS UNDP Regional Cooperation Council European Commission RBF NIS


 

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