It takes two to tango: the Western Balkans between hope and reality

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It takes two to tango: the Western Balkans between hope and reality


This year’s high-level international conference, now in its 20th year, offers a key moment to debate the future of the Balkans and explore new ideas and approaches in the presence of an audience of over two hundred people, including EU and national policymakers, government officials, representatives from business and international organisations as well as leading academics and journalists.

Latest developments, like the Prespa-Agreement, have raised hopes that the Western Balkans can move forward in overcoming old disagreements, ensure regional economic development and speed up reconciliation. Recent European Parliament elections and the composition of a new European Commission could also give new impetus to accession negotiations and preparations for EU membership. Much will depend however, on the political will and determination shown by both sides.

  • What would be the elements of a new narrative which would help to overcome « accession fatigue » in the region caused by long, complicated and bureaucratic interactions between the EU and the Balkans?
  • How is the EU encouraging the inclusion of youth and women in the Western Balkans labour market?
  • Can digitalisation enhance employment opportunities for women and young people, including through facilitating tech start-ups?
  • How can the EU and international organisations enhance reconciliation both at the governmental and societal level?

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Welcome coffee and registration of participants
Opening session: the search for new beginnings
Coffee break
Session 1: women, millennials and the labour market
Session 2: digital transformation
Coffee break
Cultural interlude
Closing session: the challenge of reconciliation


Photo of Shada Islam
Shada Islam

Director for Europe & Geopolitics at Friends of Europe

Show more information on Shada Islam

Shada Islam is responsible for policy oversight of Friends of Europe’s initiatives, activities and publications. She has special responsibility for issues related to the Future of Europe, Migration, the Asia Programme and the Development Policy Forum. Shada is Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (Natolin) where she teaches Asia-Europe relations and has been selected as a fellow by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She has been named as one of twenty most influential women in Brussels by Politico. Shada is the former Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and has previously worked on Asian and Migration issues at the European Policy Centre. She is one of the authors of Friends of Europe’s much-read “Frankly Speaking” commentary and is sought after as a speaker, commentator, columnist and moderator at high-level European and global events. Shada also continues to write on EU foreign and security policy, EU-Asia relations and trade and development issues for leading Asian, European and international publications and academic journals.


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