A high-level conference about the Balkan Euro-Atlantic integration will be held in Rome

NATO headquarters in Brussels; Photo: NATO

ROME – On Monday, 28th of September a high-level conference  “Balkan Perspectives 2020 – The fight for a Timely Inclusion” will be held in Rome. The conference is organised by the NATO Defense College Foundation, in co-operation with the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the European Commission and the NATO Defense College.

“The event marks the Foundation’s annual initiative dedicated to the Western Balkans as part of the Strategic Balkans project, launched in 2014 with the aim to regularly gather practitioners and partner organisations focusing on the area”, states the organisier’s press release.

Overall, eighteen highly qualified speakers will be attending the conference, in-person or in virtual connection.

During the first part of the event, top-level representatives and decision-makers from NATO, the European Union and other international bodies will bring together their organisations’ different perspectives on the region.

Nicola de Santis (Head of the Engagements Section, Public Diplomacy Division, NATO HQ) will open the working day addressing the Atlantic Alliance’s role and mission in the area, while the first session will see Maciej Popowski (Acting Director-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission) and Andrea Orizio (Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia) discuss together with the other speakers about the ways and means for a credible inclusion.

In special question time, Damon Wilson (Vice-President of the Atlantic Council) will be interviewed on the pressing issues of the Balkan region, speaking via a virtual connection from Washington DC.

The second session will include four specialists on the social and economic trends driving Balkan societies. Tailored approaches are needed to forestall public confidence erosion, emigration and democratic backsliding. Among them: Remzi Lani (Executive Director of the Albanian Media Institute in Tirana), Valbona Zeneli (Chair of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen) and Lubomir Ivanov (former Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to NATO).

Two special interventions will close the working day. The Commander of NATO KFOR mission, Michele Risi, will virtually brief the public from Pristina on the operations and the security environment in the region. Right after, the Honourable Piero Fassino, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Italian Chamber of Deputies and a leading politician with a track record of attention towards the Balkans, will deliver the event’s concluding remarks with a special focus on Italy’s role and strategies in the area.

The economic normalisation deal between Serbia and Kosovo is just one of the latest news from a region that is still heavily affected by COVID-19 pandemic, while already being under the strain of economic recession and population loss. At the same time, though, 2020 has been crucial for the Balkans’ Euro-Atlantic integration process, with North Macedonia becoming NATO’s 30th member in March and the EU re-opening accession talks with both Skopje and Tirana.

“The international community should not lose momentum”, states the organisers in a press release.