Balkan Revival: Kick-starting stalled policies

09 December 2014 - 11:00 - 15:00
The discussion at Friends of Europe’s 12th annual Balkans Summit addressed how and to what degree the EU and Western Balkan countries need to remain focussed on enlargement perspectives, particularly in light of new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's recent statement that there will be no further EU enlargement over the next 5 years.

“The EU and Western Balkans need each other more than ever,” stressed Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania.

“We understand the EU’s enlargement fatigue, but in turn the EU needs to understand our patience fatigue. We are facing huge challenges in our countries but, for the first time, there is a feeling that we are facing them together.”

In the 2nd session, panellists were asked to comment on the future of economic development in the region. “It is important to remain focussed on what the enlargement process is all about,” stressed Christian Danielsson, European Commission Director General for Enlargement. “The driving force for accession is the economy, specifically economic development, potential growth, and government reforms. The assessment across the board is that, though the process is difficult, the Western Balkan countries are moving forward.”



09.00 - 09.30 Welcome coffee and registration of participants

 Developments beyond the borders of Western Balkans countries look likely to have a significant impact on the region's prospects up to 2020, and the ways different national governments react to them will be crucial. As the EU institutions begin their new mandates, what should the Union's agenda for the coming five years look like? Will the reform programmes that some countries have been slow to implement be urged more strongly by the EU, and what needs to be done to accelerate change in familiar problem areas that range from the rule of law and corruption to pressure on independent institutions and media freedom? Now that enlargement towards the Western Balkans is progressing, is it time for the goals and ambitions of the Thessaloniki summit 11 years ago to be revisited and streamlined? What does new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s statement that there will be no EU enlargement over the next 5 years mean for the hopes of Western Balkan countries? Could the ongoing crises at the EU borders have an impact on the 'enlargement fatigue'?


Edi Rama / Prime Minister, Albania

Benedetto Della Vedova / Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italy

Eduard Kukan / MEP, Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee

Engjellushe Morina / Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Prishtina Council on Foreign Affairs, Kosovo¹

Andrej Plenkovic MEP  / Vice-Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Former State Secretary for European Integration, Croatia


Co-moderated by

Giles Merritt, Secretary General of Friends of Europe and

Shada Islam, Director of Policy at Friends of Europe


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


11.00 - 11.30 Coffee Break

Many of the economic problems confronting the Western Balkans region have remained stubbornly difficult to resolve, so how much importance should be attached to the scattered improvements now visible in some sectors and countries? Investment projects backed by the EU are expected to offer some economic stimulus, but private sector FDI is either largely stagnant or has been ebbing away. Above all, unemployment remains a huge brake on growth, with less than half (46%) of working age people in the region's six countries holding a job, as against almost two-thirds across the EU, including in the new member states. The parlous economic conditions of 10 years ago have eased somewhat, making it possible to argue that the half-empty glass is now half-full, but what policy measures must Western Balkan governments now introduce with greater determination? What has to be done to reduce the role of the state in key sectors of national economies, and how can the EU play a more influential role ?

Christian Danielsson / European Commission Director General for Enlargement

Nikola Poposki/ Minister of Foreign Affairs, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

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

Aye Cihan Sultanoglu  / Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), United Nation Development Programme (UNDP)


Co-moderated by

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

Shada Islam, Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

13.00 End of summit




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Brussels is not Europe, and the discussions that take place here are far from representative of the issues that concern many of Europe’s citizens. Governments across the world are struggling with this disconnect as citizens show an increasing lack of trust in politics and politicians. 

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Françoise Soudaz,
Project Executive
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Event starts
09 December