European Western Balkans

CSF 2023: Joining EU rule of law mechanisms would benefit security in the Western Balkans

European Public Prosecutor's Office; Photo: European Union

The Civil Society and Think Tank Forum (CSF), as a part of the Berlin Process, is scheduled for 14 and 15 October in Tirana. The forum is structured around seven thematic working groups, each led by civil society organizations from the region. These working groups have actively engaged in a comprehensive consultation process, involving civil society and regional experts, to collaboratively formulate policy recommendations.

According to the announcement of the Civil Society Forum, the Thematic Working Group on Security and Geopolitics will anchor its discussion around cooperation between security institutions from the Western Balkans. This working group will examine the effectiveness and impact of the current mechanisms, and how security cooperation can be further enhanced considering contemporary security challenges.

“There are significant political and some institutional challenges that undermine regional security cooperation in the Western Balkans, which is a vital issue for a more democratic and stable region. The region cannot counter malign foreign influence, and corrosive capital and deal with cyberthreats without cooperation among security institutions in the region, and to achieve this we need greater political will, administrative capacities and confidence-building measures”, says Ramadan Ilazi, head of research at the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies, one of the coordinators of the working group, for European Western Balkans. 

Among the recommendations already formulated by the working group is that the political leaders from the Western Balkan countries should commit to altering their tone and language when communicating with each other and referring to other countries and citizens in the Western Balkans, as well as to minorities and other ethnic groups in their own country.

“Accordingly, a shift in the political discourse in the Western Balkans should prioritize reconciliation, empathy, and cooperation. The use of inflammatory language by the region’s leaders is a fundamental factor perpetuating political extremism and ethno-political radicalization in the Western Balkans”, the working group has concluded.

Also, during 2024, the national authorities in the Western Balkans should focus on establishing a screening mechanism for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), or at least agree on regionally accepted standards for screening of investments.

“This is important to foster resilience against corrosive capital, linked to corruption vulnerabilities linked to domestic and foreign investments”, the recommendation reads.

In addition to this, given evolving geopolitical situations, including events in Afghanistan, Russian invasion in Ukraine, as well as recent mass shootings in the Western Balkans, the countries in the region should revise national arms control legislation to harmonize with the EU legal framework, which should be completed by 2026.

During 2024 all countries of the Western Balkans should conclude cooperation agreements with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the working group recommends.

“This would contribute to the strengthening of the rule of law in the Western Balkans as well as strengthen democratic resilience”, stresses this recommendation.

When it comes to the recommendations to the European Union, they include establishing a financial facility solely dedicated to supporting reconciliation projects in the Western Balkans, as well as inviting the Western Balkans to join the EU Rule of Law Report Mechanism as well as the EU Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation.

The latter recommendation “would allow WB6, akin to the current 27 EU Member States, to undergo assessments based on the same set of benchmarks across four critical areas related to the rule of law: the justice system, anti-corruption measures, media pluralism and freedom, and other institutional aspects linked to checks and balances”.

These recommendations stem from consultations with security experts across all Western Balkan countries within the thematic working group on security and geopolitics.

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