The first policy forum focused on the need to ensure a coherent, coordinated and comprehensive approach to the mass movement phenomenon of the last two years from the Middle East and North African countries towards the European continent. The discussion panel focused on the instruments that the European Union has adopted so as to tackle these fluxes, the concerns of the countries part of the migration route and the existing potentials of converting this jointly shared challenge into a catalyst for all-parties cooperation. In particular, the panel focused on two dimensions of the migration crisis, namely: (1) Common response to the refugee crisis – the EU did not manage to provide a common response to the refugee crisis, failing thus to meet the international obligations on the refugee status. Moreover, the establishment of the ‘Western Balkan route’, as a transit path towards some EU destination countries, is a consequence of the mismanagement of the crisis. (2) Western Balkans as potential guardians of the external borders of the European Union – The panellists unanimously agreed that the Western Balkans neither are nor can be the guardians of the southern borders of the EU. Within the context of a fragile of EU-Turkey deal, the Western Balkan countries cannot afford to convert into a buffer zone, both for their limited capacities and the stability and security of the region.
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Policy Forum serves as a topic-based follow-up series of activities in the frame of ‘Tirana Initiative’ – a high level annual platform of dialogue launched in July 2016 by Minister Bushati. The aim of the policy forum is to enhance multi-stakeholder dialogue and cooperation, by unleashing their potential and contribution in the delineation of the policy-making process in Albania. The Policy Forum is structured as bimonthly public event, which targets and brings together experts, researchers, policy advisors, opinion- and decision-makers discussing on relevant foreign policy issues and related implications at the domestic and regional level. The format foresees the participation of three panellists coming respectively from Albania, Western Balkans region and EU, who discuss and draw clear, concise and feasible recommendations for the policy-makers in the light of their field of expertise.