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The annual Balkans Summit hosted by Friends of Europe in Brussels on 5 December identified many of the key challenges facing the Western Balkan countries as the European Union prepares to confirm the region’s EU perspective in the coming months.
During the European Policy Summit, the challenges addressed included driving forward the peace and reconciliation process after the major conflicts in the region in the 1990s and early 2000s, tackling corruption and carrying out justice reforms.
Three sessions of the Summit covered peace, democracy and reconciliation; the business outlook; and the role of local and regional authorities in the EU integration process.
Questions such as the EU’s role in helping the peace and reconciliation process and in modernising the region as well as the region’s EU membership prospects were discussed. The role of Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in the region was also broached.
Participants grappled with the economic challenges facing the Western Balkans such as high unemployment and youth unemployment as well as claims that the region is suffering from a ‘brain drain’ whereby large numbers of young people are leaving the region. Also discussed was the role of local and regional authorities and civil society in tackling key challenges in the region and how the EU can help them.
During the summit, youth representatives from the region also gave their insights and recommendations on the issues most relevant to them, such as the high levels of youth unemployment.