BRUSSELS – During the Bulgarian Presidency, some seemingly important steps were made on the path of the Western Balkans towards the EU: notably, the EC enlargement strategy, as well as Sofia Summit. An encouraging sign was given by the Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, as he stated that the Western Balkans will be one of the top priorities during the Austrian Presidency, that began on 1 July.
What can the region expect during the next six months, as Austria has taken over? Why are the Western Balkans important to the EU and is it moving in the right direction to full membership?
These are the questions that are going to be discussed at the Western Balkans Reflection Forum initiative event, organised in Brussels on July 3 and 4. The event will consist of four panel discussions, taking place in Regional Cooperation Council Offices on Tuesday and Permanent Representation of Austria to the EU on Wednesday.
First panel, taking place on Tuesday, is entitled Why now enlargement in the Western Balkans is good – or bad – for the EU? Speakers list include Dominique David, President of the Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe, Vladimir Međak, President of the Research Forum of the European Movement in Serbia and Goran Svilanović, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council.
The rest of the events are left for Wednesday, as the venue also changes. First panel is dedicated to the Berlin Process and its contribution to the EU enlargement. Speakers will be Ardian Haçkaj, Research Director of the Cooperation and Development Institute in Tirana, Fisnik Korenica, Executive Director of the Legal and Political Studies in Pristina, Milena Lazarević, Programme Director of the European Policy Centre in Belgrade and Thomas Mayr-Harting from the European External Action Service.
After a short break, next discussion, entitled Re-thinking European integration beyond the current approach to enlargement is taking place. The audience will have an opportunity to hear from Fikret Čaušević, Professor at the School of Economics and Business in Sarajevo, Simonida Kacarska, Director of the European Policy Institute in Skopje and Aleksandar Kovačević, Independent Energy Policy Consultant from Belgrade, as well as representative of the European Comission.
Finally, the last panel is dedicated to the position of the Western Balkans in the current contexts of Brexit and the forthcoming european elections. These topics will be discussed by, among others, Spyros Econoides, Associate Professor of International Relations and European Politics at the European Institute (LSE) and Rosa Balfour, Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.
The Chatham House Rule applies for every discussion.