EU-Western Balkans Summit 2020: Creative solutions, sustainable cooperation and smart development

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EU-Western Balkans Summit 2020

Summary



About

About

Sustainable peace, economic prosperity and a resilient civil society are key requirements for a promising future in the Western Balkans. This year’s EU-Western Balkans summit will focus on regional cooperation and strengthening the economy and labour market through green and digital transformation, education and entrepreneurship, and inclusivity.

The new methodology on accession and enlargement presented this spring, and the EU’s move to open membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia, have created new momentum, while the recent EU Commission Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans and the conclusions of the Berlin Process Summit in Sofia have affirmed that digitalisation and greenification of the economy will require particular attention going forward. In this context, regional approaches and strategies for cooperation present the best and most promising chance for the region.

This year’s summit offers the opportunity to look ahead and focus on the crucial topics defining the future of the region. We look forward to bringing together innovative minds and decision-makers from across all sectors to discuss and define smart solutions for further progress and cooperation.

Our Balkans series has welcomed Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Ministers from the region as well as key representatives from the EU institutions and member states. Furthermore, civil society and business are regularly represented in the discussions.

Schedule

Schedule

Session I - Supporting regionalisation: A bridge to strong and stable democracy Expand Session I - Supporting regionalisation: A bridge to strong and stable democracy

For too many countries in the Balkans, democracy and civil liberties are fragile concepts. Political and economic development depends on strengthening the capacity of the region as a whole, encouraging stability, and bringing all countries closer to the EU.

The EU’s new Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, as well as the Chairs’ Conclusions from the last Berlin Process Summit held in Sofia and chaired jointly by Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia, mark positive steps forward for regional cooperation. In particular, the WB 6 leaders’ agreement on the Declaration on Common Regional Market and the adoption of an Action Plan for the period 2021-2024 based on the EU four freedoms can provide a strong foundation for the region based on shared interests, strong leadership, and economic development.

The challenge now will be implementing this deeper level of cooperation and integration with other economic initiatives in the region. At present, aligning post-COVID economic recovery with political reforms presents an opportunity to take a step in the right direction, enabling the region to stand on its own feet and encouraging thriving, stable democracy.

Questions include:

  • How can the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan, the Common Regional Market and other initiatives, such as the ‘Mini Schengen’ plan, complement each other and create political and economic reform?
  • What are the most significant challenges facing the continued development of a regional agenda, and how can the EU provide support in overcoming these?
  • How can regionalisation bring Western Balkans countries closer to EU accession?

Speakers

Majlinda Bregu

Secretary-General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)

Petko Doykov

Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Karoline Edtstadler

Austrian Federal Minister for the European Union and Constitution

Stevo Pendarovski

President of North Macedonia

Moderator

Dharmendra Kanani

Director, Asia, Peace, Security & Defense, Digital & Chief spokesperson

Continue to 8 Dec
Session II - Opportunities: a green agenda for the Western Balkans Expand Session II - Opportunities: a green agenda for the Western Balkans

The ‘European Green Deal’ foresees the active engagement of the Western Balkans, but given the continued dependence in the region on polluting carbon-based technologies, governments and energy companies were sceptical of the Commission’s proposal. However, post-COVID recovery offers the opportunity to continue pushing for a green transition.

The European Commission’s Economic and Investment Plan and its Green Agenda for the Western Balkans intend to spur the long-term economic recovery of the region. These initiatives build on green transition efforts through a substantial investment package for sustained economic growth, implementation of reforms required to move forward on the EU path, and bringing the Western Balkans closer to the EU Single Market.

Investing and reorienting the economy towards renewable energy sources could create jobs and counter negative demographic forecasting by providing new labour opportunities, incentivising people to remain in the region. A green transition for the Balkans has the potential to be a launchpad for post-COVID recovery while also bolstering resilience against future economic shocks and bringing the WB 6 closer to EU accession.

Questions include:

  • How can the EU’s EIP and Green Agenda create new structures and baselines for long-term economic growth in the Balkans?
  • How can a sustainable economic strategy best help to promote political and social transformation? Can a ‘green recovery’ help foster resilience and stabilise regional economies?
  • How can a green transition address the issue of ‘brain drain’ in the Balkans and create incentives for youth to remain in the region?

Speakers

Ornela Çuçi

Albanian Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment

Ljiljana Lovrić

Bosnian Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations

Besian Mustafa

Kosovar* Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development

Charlotte Ruhe

Managing Director for Central and South Eastern Europe at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

Moderator

Dharmendra Kanani

Director, Asia, Peace, Security & Defense, Digital & Chief spokesperson

*For the United Nations, references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)

Continue to 9 Dec
Session III - Opportunities: digital and technology- a chance to bring the region forward Expand Session III - Opportunities: digital and technology- a chance to bring the region forward

A digital transition for the Western Balkans is vital for increased regional cooperation, alignment with the EU and the creation of opportunities in the labour market. At the most recent Berlin Process Summit in Sofia, WB 6 leaders recognised the development of a regional digital area as a key element of the Common Regional Market and integration into the pan-European digital area.

Digitalisation could motivate investors and entrepreneurs to transform the region into a hub for technology and innovation, encouraging the coordination of digital infrastructure and creating incentives for regional technological development.

As a central aspect of the European Commission’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, aligning the digital sector with the EU’s objectives lays part of the groundwork for future EU accession. Digital transformation and education are a chance to simultaneously stimulate growth, innovation and opportunity within the region while stemming brain drain and out-migration on the path to social, political and economic development.

Questions include:

  • How can a vibrant technology and innovation industry transform the economy and society of the Western Balkans?
  • Can increased political and financial commitment in the digital sector help create jobs and perspectives for a new generation and/or under-represented groups in the regional labour market?
  • How can the EU’s support in promoting the development of digitalisation in the region assist in bringing Western Balkan countries closer to the EU?
  • How can digitalisation stimulate increased regional cooperation?

Speakers

Tatjana Matić

Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications

Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger

Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Olivér Várhelyi

European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement

Vladimir Vulic

Co-Founder of Digitalizuj.Me

Moderator

Jamie Shea

Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for emerging security challenges at NATO

Speakers

Speakers

Photo of Majlinda Bregu
Majlinda Bregu

Secretary-General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC)

Show more information on Majlinda Bregu

Majlinda Bregu is an accomplished Albanian politician and a strong believer in the European project. Before becoming the top official of the RCC, a regional cooperative framework for Southeast European countries promoting Euro-Atlantic integration, Bregu served as a Member of Parliament for three consecutive legislatures for the Centre Right. In this role, she worked for an all-inclusive approach and far-reaching consensus on the European perspective of Albania and the region. She has also served as Minister of European Integration and as Government’s Spokesperson, where she helped promote the importance of Albania’s membership perspective to the EU for the stability of the region. Additionally, she has actively supported and contributed to the Western Balkans Civil Society Forum established under the Berlin Process.

Ornela Çuçi
Ornela Çuçi

Albanian Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment

Show more information on Ornela Çuçi

Ornela Çuçi is an environmental specialist with considerable experience in green solutions and sustainable development in Albania. In addition to her Tourism and Environment portfolio, she is tasked with Albania’s waste management issues as National Coordinator for Urban Waste Management; several measures and laws have since been initiated at her behest. Çuçi has also renewed Albania’s commitment to performing on international and European standards, while recognising the particularities of the Western Balkan historical background’s impacts on capacity.

Petko Doykov
Petko Doykov

Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Show more information on Petko Doykov

Petko Doykov is an experienced diplomat with an extensive portfolio in international relations and cooperation. He was previously Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to India and Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ directorate for the Middle East and Africa. He was also an expert for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for NATO, Western European Union and Security Issues. He is a strong proponent of international collaboration.

Karoline-Edtstadler
Karoline Edtstadler

Austrian Federal Minister for the European Union and Constitution

Show more information on Karoline Edtstadler

Karoline is an Austrian lawyer and politician who has served as Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution in the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz since 2020. Karoline has previously held a number of senior positions at the national and European levels, including at the European Court of Human Rights, as state secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior and most recently as head of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Delegation in the European Parliament. In her current portfolio, she has boldly called for European treaty change to ensure a clearer separation of powers between the EU and national governments. She has also made a name for herself by combating anti-Semitism and calling for a common European asylum system.

Ljiljana Lovrić
Ljiljana Lovrić

Bosnian Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations

Show more information on Ljiljana Lovrić

Ljiljana Lovrić has held numerous positions within the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was an advisor to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Head of Office/Advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations. Her current and previous positions have seen her take on a range of policy issues, including regional economic cooperation, economic development, energy and environment. She is a strong proponent of sustainability and recently led the BiH delegation’s 10th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). She also opened the first working group meeting for the Environmental Strategy and Action Plan of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tatjana Matić
Tatjana Matić

Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications

Show more information on Tatjana Matić

Dedicated to digital development, Tatjana Matić has had an extensive political career in the Government of Serbia and in the Western Balkans. She has been engaged with Serbia’s accession to the EU, presiding several negotiating groups within the Coordination Body. A vocal advocate for the integration of Serbia to the EU Digital Single Market, Matić is committed to the strengthening of digital literacy, cybersecurity, the digital economy etc.; she is also a member of the European Strategic Group for Digital Development. She also has been heavily involved with the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans.

Besian Mustafa
Besian Mustafa

Kosovar* Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development

Show more information on Besian Mustafa

Besian Mustafa has a wide range of experience in the fields of economics and investment across the public and private sectors. He has held the positions of manager, director and board member of private, public and non-profit organisations, including General Director of the Kosovo* Investment Enterprise Support Agency, Member of the Platform Advisory Group, Enterprise Building and Enterprise Innovation in the Western Balkans and Spokesperson for the Democratic League of Kosovo*. In his current position, Mustafa oversees a range of policy issues, including rural and agricultural development, environmental protection activities, and reforestation.

*For the United Nations, references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)

Stevo Pendarovski
Stevo Pendarovski

President of North Macedonia

Show more information on Stevo Pendarovski

Stevo Pendarovski has led a distinguished career as a politician and academic. He served as National Security and Chief Foreign Policy Advisor for two presidents and headed North Macedonia’s State Election Commission. He also worked as an Assistant Professor in International Security, Foreign Policy and Globalisation at the University American College in Skopje. He was a key figure in coordinating North Macedonia’s accession to NATO and is a strong proponent of Balkan integration into the EU as a way of attracting more foreign investment, creating jobs, and maintaining stability and prosperity in the Balkans.

Charlotte Ruhe
Charlotte Ruhe

Managing Director for Central and South Eastern Europe at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

Show more information on Charlotte Ruhe

Charlotte Ruhe is an international economist with over two decades of experience at the EBRD. In her current portfolio, she is responsible for the organisation’s business in 18 countries, ranging from Poland and the Baltic States to the Balkans. She also served as Director of the Advice for Small Businesses team and Director for Croatia in Zagreb. In these roles, she was responsible for managing the Bank’s relations with national authorities and clients. She believes Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality and the Balkans have a vital part to play in achieving this goal.

Photo of Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger
Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger

Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Show more information on Mirjana Spoljaric-Egger

In her current position, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger leads UNDP’s work in supporting countries across the Western Balkans in their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, amongst other responsibilities. Egger previously served as Head of United Nations and International Organisations Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, where she was instrumental in shaping Switzerland’s position to the UN. She combines a strong policy background with field experience and has had several assignments in the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Photo of Olivér Várhelyi
Olivér Várhelyi

European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement

Show more information on Olivér Várhelyi

Olivér Várhelyi is an experienced diplomat who has spent the past 25 years dealing with EU politics in various roles. Prior to his current position, he served as Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU and worked as the Head of Unit responsible for Industrial Property Rights at the European Commission. He also held the positions of Head of the Legal Service at the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Hungary to the European Union and Legal counsellor at the Mission of the Republic of Hungary to the European Union.

Vladimir Vulic
Vladimir Vulic

Co-Founder of Digitalizuj.Me

Show more information on Vladimir Vulic

Vladimir Vulic is a pioneer of internet entrepreneurship in Montenegro. He co-founded Download Zone, the first and largest download website in Serbia and Montenegro. His NGO, Digitalizuj.Me, helps citizens and organisations implement exciting new opportunities for social change and business in the digital environment. Digitalizuj.Me has successfully collaborated with several international organisations, including UNDP Montenegro, UNICEF Montenegro, the World Health Organisation, and the US Embassy in Podgorica. He was also a member of the ‘Educators Board of Challenge: Future, a global youth think tank’, where he focused on pushing forward more sustainable public policies.

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