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BSC Leaders Meeting: The EU can show us examples that we can learn from

Photo: Aleksandar Ristovski

SKOPJE – Under the title “Russian Aggression Against Ukraine: New Momentum for the EU Enlargement?”, the second in a series of BSC Leaders Meetings events took place in Skopje on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Igor Bandović, the Director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, made opening remarks by saying that a new era has come to our region where a change in the style of governance and a change in leadership goes hand in hand. “Only this will give a new breath of fresh air and new energy to our dying and exhausted Balkans,” he stated.

The main topics of the BSC Leaders Meetings panel discussion in Skopje were Russian propaganda in the region, EU membership, the bilateral dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

While discussing the effects of Russian propaganda in the Western Balkans, the President of President of the Republic of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski, pointed out that it has won the hearts and minds of people in the region and that being a member of NATO helps to cope with cyber-attacks and endless propaganda.

Deputy Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations Vessela Tcherneva described the media environment as polluted, partly due to Russian propaganda but also the consequence of narratives filled with fear and anxiety – the narratives people tend to accept in times of crisis.

Regarding relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia, Goran Buldioski, Director of Programs for Open Society-Europe and Central Asia, said bilateral disputes in the EU integration process are part of political reality and should be resolved as such.

“The EU can show examples that North Macedonia can learn from, such as the issue of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia or German-French relations,” he explained.

Deputy Prime Minister Slavica Grkovska said there are many challenges and issues to resolve, but also there is a strong political will to do that. “It is not easy to deinstall the system of the captured state, but the current government is reform-oriented, and it has done a lot.”

The panelists concluded that EU membership is still a strategic goal of North Macedonia.

Following the panel discussion, at the beginning of the Chatham House debate, the BSCP researchers Luka Šterić and Ivana Ranković presented a report on Hungary’s role in the Western Balkans, followed by a discussion of international and regional experts.

The BSC Leaders Meetings events, with the distinguished panel of international and domestic speakers, are planned to continue in the coming months in other capitals of the Western Balkans.

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