“The Russian aggression has fundamentally changed the security structure of Europe”, highlighted Popowski. Regarding the Western Balkan countries, he said that the most commented decision from the Enlargement Package 2022 is the Commission’s recommendation to grant candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Popowski added that in this Enlargement Package, the focus on fundamentals was “as strong as ever” and stated that the revised Enlargement methodology works well but that, in some aspects, can be developed more, for instance, with gradual integration.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: “Bosnia and Herzegovina is the winner of this Enlargement package, but, truth to be told, we do not deserve it”, said Ćutahija. He added that, due to ethnic division, the functionality of BiH is undermined. He also mentioned that the problem is that there are no sanctions for BiH’s politicians, who all proclaimed membership in the EU as a goal when they do not fulfil the required criteria.
North Macedonia: The European Commission held its first Intergovernmental Conference with North Macedonia in July 2022, and this is an important step that showed dedication to the Enlargement. But, a large part of this year’s Report’s content is the same as last year’s and repeats the same recommendations, which shows that we did not advance on our road to the EU membership, said Abazi Imeri.
Albania: EU is currently trying to do as much as it can in order to prevent Russia and China from establishing a foothold in Western Balkans, but it does not have a strategic approach. EU gets a lot from the region, and it needs to invest a lot as well, said Alban Dafa.
Serbia: Serbia hasn’t moved since 2016, and there’s a lack of transformative effects of the enlargement. The assessment of political criteria is critical, and it needs to be put in focus, said Majstorovic. Majstorovic highlighted that the moment for fundamental changes is now and that both sides must show dedication to the common future. “If we fail to recognise that this is the moment to think outside of the box, the moment will fade. We need to work together in 2023 to create new political architecture for Europe in the future”, said Majstorovic.
Kosovo: Regarding Kosovo, Fetahu said that Kosovo remained where it was in the 2022 EC Report. “This Report does not show opinion on Kosovo getting candidate status, and we do not know when this will be possible”, said Fetahu.
Montenegro: “We are not doing much work, so we cannot say that we are ‘tired of enlargement’. And there is no dilemma about the Western Balkan’s future – there is no other path except the one of EU membership. But, we need a timely EU reaction to problems in our countries”, assessed Sošić.
The aim of these discussions is to present to the public the key findings of the Commission’s annual reports while highlighting to what extent these converge with the regional think tanks’ assessment of the situation on the ground.
Belgrade, 8-9 November 2022 – “As WeBER, we have matured as of 2015 in the sense that we realised that as CSOs, we cannot speak without the voice of citizens. We drew a precious lesson from citizens’ consultations. We could be much more persuasive, and a bottom-up pressure could be created in a more effective way only if we manage to empower citizens.” With these words, Milena Lazarevic summed up the aim of the Third Regional WeBER Conference Citizens First: Better administrations through citizen consultations.The Conference held in Belgrade on 8-9 November, the same as the first one in 2018 and the second in 2021, was organised by the European Policy Centre – CEP Belgrade, WeBER Project Coordinator. In two days, the WeBER Conference brought together 51 regional and EU experts and officials and hosted more than 180 guests.
The Conference was launched by the keynote speeches of Milena Lazarevic, WeBER2.0 Team Leader and Programme Director of the European Policy Centre – CEP, Admirim Aliti, Minister of Information Society and Administration of North Macedonia, Maciej Popowski, Acting Director-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), and Gregor Virant, Head of SIGMA/OECD.
As the conference title implies, the central topic was how to bring public administration closer to the citizens based on their own experience shared within the citizen consultations conducted at the local level across the region while using the EU’s good practice of implementing European Citizen Consultations. Gaetane Ricard-Nihoul, Deputy Head of the Unit of Citizens’ Dialogues in the European Commission, Maike Brakhan, Project Manager at the Missions Publiques, Kalypso Nicolaidis, Professor at the European University Institute and Milena Lazarevic, discussed the outcomesin a panel moderated by Corina Stratulat from European Policy Centre – EPC Brussels.
“We need to develop a vision of a pan-European system of deliberative and participatory democracy. The role of CSOs is to bring the citizens into a more inclusive, common space”, commented Nicolaidis upon Lazarevic’s presentation on experience with citizen consultations. Altogether 25 of them were conducted with the assistance of the WeBER2.0 local grantees.
Later on, Jesper Johnson, Senior Policy Analyst at SIGMA/OECD, presented the SIGMA data portal and policy simulator launched in September 2022. It involves interactive graphs and tools that allow national administrations, civil society and those supporting public governance reforms to simulate which reforms are necessary to improve the performance of public governance in the future.
The first day of the Conference was closed with breakout sessions on each area of public administration reform, where WeBER2.0 researchers presented their findings of the new PAR Monitor by the PAR area. Presentations were followed by a discussion of experts and representatives of public administration from the region.
The second day of the Conference began with two parallel sessions on public administration reform at the local level. In one of these sessions, WeBER2.0 grantees presented reports summarising the outcomes of citizen consultations. The other one, titled Cities and municipalities in Serbia in focus / Public administration reform at the local government level, involved the presentation of the findings of the research conducted by the CEP and its project’s partners in 17 cities and municipalities in Serbia as part of the Public Administration Monitoring for Better Local Governance project. Results were later discussed by representatives of municipalities and project partners, as well as Jana Belcheva Andreevska, Smart City and Digitalization Officer at the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS). This panel was moderated by independent journalist and CSO expert Nenad Sebek.
Two following sessions held on the second day of the Conference were dedicated to the citizens’ personal experiences and individual stories related to public administration. In the beginning, the video recorded by local grantees (soon available online) introduced the personal stories of the citizens via short interviews. It was later reflected by panellists Tiina Randma Liiv, Professor at the Tallinn University of Technology and Maja Handjiska-Trendafilova, Director at the Regional School of Public Administration – ReSPA later.
“We should distinguish between the role of citizens versus customers. Citizens have a much broader role. They are not only customers but also service owners; that’s why they are both policy takers and policymakers”, highlighted Liiv. Handjiska-Trendafilova agreed, “Citizens should self-identify with the role of the co-creator of policies, not only with the service-user role!”
The debate was followed by introducing the study, which analysed more than 6,000 citizens’ experiences across the Western Balkans gathered through the platform citizens.par-monitor.org, as well as street actions. After Sava Mitrović, Junior Researcher (CEP) and Dragana Jaćimović, Project Associate, Institute Alternative in Podgorica, presented the analysis outcome, Florian Hauser from DG NEAR and Simonida Kacarska, Director of the European Policy Institute – EPI discussed the citizens’ (dis)satisfaction with service delivery and recommendations. Nenad Sebek also moderated these panels.
Kacarska pointed out the problem with the hierarchy structure of public administration in which the citizens are only viewed as consumers. According to her words, it creates a very unpleasant environment when utilising public services. Hauser also highlighted the problem with “crazy legislation” concerning several aspects of public services across the Western Balkans. “People in Western Balkans complain about the humiliation they feel when dealing with public service. It shouldn’t work this way; public administration is here to help them solve the problem together”, said Hauser.
Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation in Belgrade, and Milena Lazarevic delivered the Conference’s closing remarks. “After 15 years in the region, I have learned that we need somebody to pick up on citizens who seem not to be mobilized, shaken or involved enough. Citizens first is a very appealing title since we must put citizens at the forefront and channel their voices and desires better. You will have our support in the process,” highlighted Bertolini during his closing speech.
The second day of the conference began with parallel sessions in which public administration reform at the local level was discussed. In one of the sessions, WeBER2.0 grantees presented the results and reports of citizen consultations. In the second parallel session, Cities and municipalities in Serbia in focus / Public administration reform at the local government level, the findings of the research conducted by the CEP in 17 cities and municipalities in Serbia as part of the Public Administration Monitoring for Better Local Governance project were presented and then discussed by representatives of municipalities, project partners, as well as Jana Belcheva Andreevska, Smart City and Digitalization Officer at the Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS). This panel was moderated by independent journalist and CSO expert Nenad Sebek.
In two subsequent sessions on the second day, the Conference focused on the personal experiences and stories of the citizens themselves – firstly in the presentations of regional video with stories recorded by local grantees (which will soon be available online), discussed by Tiina Randma Liiv, Professor at the Tallinn University of Technology and Maja Handjiska-Trendafilova, Director at the Regional School of Public Administration – ReSPA. After that, the analysis of more than 5,000 experiences of citizens from the entire Western Balkans collected through the platforms citizens.par-monitor.org, as well as street actions, was presented by Sava Mitrović, Researcher (CEP) and Dragana Jaćimović, Project Associate, Alternative Institute, Montenegro. Citizens’ (dis)satisfaction with service delivery and recommendations were discussed by Florian Hauser from DG NEAR and
Simonida Kacarska, Director of the European Policy Institute – EPI. Nenad Sebek also moderated these panels.
“We should distinguish between the role of citizens versus customers. Citizens have a much broader role. They are not only customers but also the owners of the services; that’s why they are policy takers and policymakers. We should distinguish between the role of citizens versus customers. Citizens have a much broader role. They are not only customers but also owners of the services; that’s why they are not only policy takers but also policymakers.”, highlighted Liiv. Handjiska-Trendafilova agrees: “Citizens should self-identify with the role of the co-creator of policies, not only with the service-user role!”
Kacarska pointed out that the problem is that “there is a hierarchy structure of public administration in which the citizens are only viewed as consumers, and that creates an unpleasant environment for them actually to use the public services”, while Hauser talked about the problem with “crazy legislations” in many aspects of public services across the Western Balkans. “People in Western Balkans complain about the humiliation they feel when dealing with public service. It shouldn’t work this way; public administration is here to help them solve their problem together”, said Hauser.
Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation in Belgrade and Milena Lazarevic gave the conference’s closing remarks. Bertolini said that “democracies in the Western Balkans are still developing”, and there are still a lot of challenges. “Citizens need to be first, and we need to channel their voices better. Civil society should be very responsible – it needs to fulfil its role of representativeness. You will have our support in the process,” said Bertolini.
The year 2022 has reaffirmed the fact that enlargement is one of the key geopolitical instruments of the European Union that is necessary for securing the Continent’s peace, stability, security, and prosperity. The outbreak of the unjustified and unprovoked Russia’s aggression of Ukraine has not only brought back the issue of enlargement to the top of the EU’s agenda, but encouraged out-of-the-box thinking in terms of how to accelerate enlargement and end the impasse, while keeping the progress in the rule of law and fundamental rights at the forefront. On that front, not only did Member States agree to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, but they also unlocked the path for Albania and North Macedonia to progress – after years of standstill. Moreover, by building upon the revised enlargement methodology, the European Council called for further advancement of the gradual integration between the EU and the Western Balkans.
In such a quickly changing environment, the levels of anticipation of the European Commission’s annual reports for the Western Balkan partners were exceptionally high. On 12 October, the European Commission adopted its 2022 Enlargement Package, offering a comprehensive assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the Western Balkan partners on their paths towards the EU. A quick glance at the reports showcases a mixed picture. As before, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia continued to demonstrate only limited or some progress in the area of rule of law, whereas Bosnia and Herzegovina persistently faces a standstill in the work of democratic institutions due to internal institutional struggles. In contrast, North Macedonia and Albania continue to showcase steady progress in key areas, while also engaging in the screening process.
Besides placing emphasis on the Fundamentals, the Commission has this time gone a step further in order to secure full geostrategic alignment of the Western Balkans with the EU. In fact, it was particularly highlighted that in the current geopolitical context Serbia needs to step up its efforts in aligning with EU positions in foreign policy, including declarations and sanctions. Furthermore, the Commission continued to support Albania and North Macedonia’s screening process, while standing by its assessment that Kosovo has fulfilled all visa liberalisation benchmarks. Lastly and most importantly, the Commission recommended that Bosnia and Herzegovina be granted the status of a candidate to join the EU, on the understanding that it reinforces democracy and takes other steps.
This draws the following questions: How does the 2022 Enlargement Package support the reform efforts in the area of Fundaments and other clusters? As civil society’s quantification of ratings per chapter showcase the relative stagnation of the region throughout the past years in terms of the overall level of preparation for membership, what can be done to unblock the reform processes? Finally, considering the ongoing war in Ukraine, how can Commission’s findings ensure further and accelerated progressive alignment of all Western Balkan partners with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy?
As the mentioned issues remain highly relevant for the everyday life of citizens and may determine the European future of the region, the aim of the event is to gather relevant regional and EU experts and officials who will untangle what has been done so far in the key areas and discuss what remains to be done to make sure that the recommendations and benchmarks from 2022 Enlargement Package are implemented effectively and efficiently. To acquire multi-layered answers, the panellists from think tanks from all Western Balkan partners will give their inputs at this event organised jointly by the Think for Europe Network (TEN) and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).
The 2022 Enlargement Package will be presented by Mr Maciej Popowski, Acting Director-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, followed by reactions from:
• Srđan Majstorović, European Policy Centre – CEP, Belgrade • Haris Ćutahija, Foreign Policy initiative BH, Sarajevo • Marko Sošić, Institute Alternative – IA, Podgorica • Arber Fetahu, Group for Legal and Political Studies – GLPS, Pristina • Ardita Abazi Imeri, European Policy Institute – EPI, Skopje • Alban Dafa, Institute for Democracy and Mediation – IDM, Tirana
The panel will be moderated by Corina Stratulat, European Policy Centre – EPC, Brussels.
The working language of the panel discussion is English.
If you want to attend the event in person, please apply.
A two-day conference on public administration reform (PAR), institutional integrity, accountability, and public trust in institutions was held in Tirana on the 7th and 8th of June, bringing together government officials and civil society from across the Western Balkans.
The conference was opened by Oriana Arapi, General Director, Prime Ministry of Albania, Florian Hauser, DG Near, European Commission, Gregor Virant, Head of Program, SIGMA – OECD, and Keida Meta from the Department of Public Administration.
“Governments need to have good people who work in civil service, and they need to make sure that the career of the civil servant is attractive to people,” said Florian Hauser. “If we don’t deliver, if we don’t provide services to citizens and businesses, then we are not relevant anymore. Better public administration works – the country will be more successful”, he added.
Keida Meta highlighted that the digitalisation of services was the top priority of the Albanian government and that they achieved good things here.
Members of civil society reminded the government that without the meaningful participation of civil society (in monitoring, coordination, etc.) there is no good public administration.
The participants then talked about the danger of public administration reform being associated with EU integration and agreed that it is dangerous because that means that reforms happen only because of the EU, but the reforms should be domestically driven and why the sectoral mainstreaming of PAR is of utmost importance.
The second day of the conference was opened by Gjergji Vurmo, Programme Director, IDM, Albania, Adea Pirdeni, Deputy Minister of Justice, Albania, Matilda Shabani, General Director, Ministry of Health and Social Protection, Albania and Petra Burcher, DCM, Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden, Albania.
Participants then shared experiences from the implementation of the Integrity Risk Assessment methodology in the central public institutions of Albania, why it is necessary to have a code of ethics in public institutions and why we have to pay attention to administrative leadership, not only to political leadership. Also, representatives from the region talked about their own perspectives on integrity-building experiences in the public administrations of the Western Balkans.
Adea Pirdeni said how the government, by enabling the digitalisation of public services, managed to eliminate corruption on the counters, while Petra Burcher highlighted that integrity builds trust and trust is the core of a well-functioning state.
“Integrity as a concept is not only the integrity of institutions. One of the main reasons for bad implementation is connected to a lack of individual integrity. If we put efforts into this part of integrity, there is more chance to improve institutional integrity”, said Emsad Dizdarević from Transparency International.
The conference is organised within the project of the Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration – WeBER 2.0 regional project and the Serving Democracy and Citizens through Improved Public Integrity project. The WeBER 2.0 project is implemented by the Think for Europe Network (TEN) and is funded by the European Union and other donors. Serving Democracy and Citizens through Improved Public Integrity project is implemented by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation and is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
The European Policy Institute together with Civil Rights Defenders and the members of the Think For Europe Network – TEN sent an open letter to the Members of the European Parliament regarding the Draft Resolution on the 2021 Commission Report on North Macedonia.
We urge them to reconsider parts of the Motion for a resolution that are conditions set by Bulgaria that will have negative implications on the Macedonian identity and will endorse the ultimatum that Bulgaria imposed on North Macedonia, using the EU membership as a tool.
If the bilateral issues imposed by Bulgaria enter the accession process, its essence of being a transformative power for the society and the Europeanization process would not only be jeopardised, but would run contrary to the values of the Union.
These are not the values we have believed in. These are not the values we have fought for at home, consistently advocating for EU-accession related reforms.
Following the ameliorated COVID-19 pandemic situation, the regional meeting will be organised as a two-day in person event, holding several activities. Participants will arrive in Tirana on 6 June 2022. The PAR regional conference will take place during 7 – 8 June 2022 and will be held in English, with Albanian simultaneous translation. It will discuss the need for mainstreaming of PAR principles across sectoral policies and best practices of integrity building in the public administration of Albania and the region. On the other hand, the PAR sectoral mainstreaming workshop will focus on the preliminary results of pilot monitoring exercise on mainstreaming principles of public administration, its challenges so far and how to overcome them.
The event aims to foster the dialogue between civil society and institutional stakeholders to design and implement inclusive and transparent policies, as well as contribute to the sustainability of citizen-centred administrative reforms.
This is the first time since the pandemic outbreak, that the WeBER platform members from all the Western Balkans meet in person to discuss public administration reforms monitoring in regional level. Our community gathers various civil society organisations, governments’ representatives, international and regional organisations, as well as distinguished independent experts, who will share with us the latest updates on governance and research on PAR issues in regional level.
The WeBER 2.0 project is implemented by the Think for Europe Network (TEN) and is funded by the European Union and other donors. Serving Democracy and Citizens through Improved Public Integrity project is implemented by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation and is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
If you wish to follow the Conference online, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Given the fact that the number of participants is limited, all registrations will be reviewed and confirmed by the WeBER2.0 team members.
This online public forum is co-organised with the Clingendael.
The EU seeks to foster democratisation through its enlargement policy, in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, also known as the Western Balkans Six.
Despite years of efforts, the EU’s policies have not brought about the expected change. Instead of experiencing decisive democratic reform, the WB6 show signs – to different degrees – of ‘stabilitocracies’: countries with obvious democratic shortcomings that at the same time claim to work towards democratic reform and to offer stability.
Join our online forum with law makers, policy makers and researchers from both the EU and the Western Balkans. The topics at stake include how the EU is unintentionally contributing to the formation of ‘stabilitocracies’ and what can be done to avoid it.
We will pose several thesis statements to the speakers. The speakers will debate a thesis during a limited amount of time. You can participate through the poll and by asking your question through the online Q&A.
Giulia Cretti, Junior Researcher, the Clingendael Institute
Debate & poll questions
Maja Kocijančič, Member of Cabinet & Communication Advisor to the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, European Commission Milena Lazarević, Programme Director, European Policy Centre – CEP, Belgrade Nikola Dimitrov, Former Foreign and Deputy Prime Minister for European Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, ECFR and BIEPAG member Roelien Kamminga, Member of Parliament VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), The Netherlands Geert Luteijn, Lecturer Political Science, University of Amsterdam Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Member of European Parliament (The Greens/European Free Alliance – EFA) Wouter Zweers, (moderator) Research Fellow, the Clingendael Institute
Please register here. The event will be held via Zoom. After registering you will receive an email with a personal link to the webinar room.
Through its enlargement policy, the EU seeks to foster democratisation in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, also called Western Balkans six (WB6). Despite years of efforts, the EU’s policies have not brought about the expected change.
The enlargement process has lost both efficacy and political momentum. Instead of experiencing decisive democratic reform, the WB6 have slowly developed into ‘stabilitocracies’: countries with obvious democratic shortcomings that at the same time claim to work towards democratic reform and offer stability.
The report, conducted by the Clingendael and the Think for Europe Network, identifies eight flaws in the EU’s strategies, policies and their implementation that are believed to contribute to stabilitocracy formation.
In each of the WB6 countries, concrete cases exemplify how EU influence has unintentionally contributed to stabilitocracy formation and what factors have determined whether the EU approach has been constructive or not. The technical approach is the most prevalent flaw in the case studies. Examples range from the EU’s inability to harmonise the interests of different ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, structural weaknesses in the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), the failure of technical safeguards to counter blurred boundaries between branches of power in Montenegro, an overly technical focus in progress reports on democracy and rule of law reforms in North-Macedonia, and an overly technical fixation in the application of the revised methodology in Serbia.
To avoid the traps of further stabilitocracy entrenchment, we put forward recommendations and critical reflections on how to improve the EU’s role in the region. Recommendations include focusing more on genuine feedback to WB6 governments, better reporting on the state of progress, enhancing communication with citizens, and specifying benchmarks while accompanying them with more tangible timelines.
However, fixing the technical process is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the EU accession process and its democratisation agenda for the Western Balkans. Therefore, the EU and its member states need to seriously consider proposals for a further overhaul of the enlargement process in order to allow for a staged accession trajectory for the WB6. At the same time, the EU could speed up engagement with the WB6 beyond the enlargement framework in order to not lose grip in a region subject to increasing great-power competition. Lastly, it is recommended that the Netherlands takes further action to substantiate its ambitions as a critical but engaged member state.
Save the date for an online forum on Thursday 10 March, 15.30-16.45 hrs. Lawmakers, policymakers and researchers will debate on the EU’s unintentionally contribution to the formation of ‘stabilitocracies’ and the next steps. You can participate through the Q&A and poll questions.
Confirmed speakers are Milena Lazarević (Programme Director, European Policy Centre – Belgrade), Nikola Dimitrov (Former Foreign and Deputy Prime Minister for European Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia) and Geert Luteijn (Lecturer Political Science, University of Amsterdam). The full programme will be announced soon. Please register to save the date!
24 November 2021 – Today, the European Policy Centre (CEP), together with other members of Think for Europe Network (TEN) and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) organised an online discussion about the European Commission’s 2021 Enlargement Package. The event titled: EU Enlargement to the Western Balkans in the Light of the New Methodology gathered acting Director-General, Maciej Popowski, who presented this year’s reports, and CSOs representatives from six Western Balkans countries who discussed and commented on reports for each state. The panel was moderated by Milena Lazarević, CEP’s Programme Director. Panellists discussed how does the Enlargement Package support the building of a stronger Europe, what are the incentives offered to the Western Balkans through this Package, and does the current toolkit possess enough tools to deal with regional’s sensitive, yet complex issues while addressing the Fundamentals.
Mr. Popowski called, in his presentation, this year’s package “the mother of all packages” which comes after the visit of President Commission Ursula von der Leyen to Western Balkans in September and the Brdo Summit in October. He emphasised the necessity to maintain dynamics of the enlargement process despite the odds while underlining recommendations of the Commission to open two new Clusters with Serbia, finally start negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and secure visa liberalisation for Kosovo. Popowski stated that bilateral issues between Bulgaria and North Macedonia cast a big shadow on the enlargement and that there is very little time to find an agreement between the two countries to Bulgaria remove its veto. At the same time, Commission has sent its representatives to Bosnia and Herzegovina to find a way for overcoming institutional stalemate in this country. On the question about scepticism in some member states when it comes to further enlargement of the EU, Popowski pointed out that there has always been scepticism, but that we must avoid further disillusionment among citizens in candidate states. Asked about the model of staged accession, Popowski stated that he is entirely familiar with it, but he compared it with ideas from the 1990s about the EU in concentric circles. Finally, he sees the Open Balkan initiative as a part of a broader concept of regional cooperation and as a stepping stone towards the accession of the WB region to the EU, not as a substitute.
On October 19, the European Commission adopted its 2021 Enlargement Package, offering a comprehensive assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the Western Balkans on their individual paths towards the European Union, with a focus on implementing fundamental reforms, as well as clear guidance on the reform priorities ahead. With the introduction of the new methodology which uses a merit-based approach, the focus of this Package is addressing fundamentals – rule of law, independence of the judiciary, media freedom, and the fight against organised crime and corruption – all while making sure that the EU itself delivers on its commitments.
The Commission acknowledged the region’s frontrunners, Montenegro, and Serbia, by noting that they have made some progress in this area while acknowledging efforts of North Macedonia and Albania have made to fulfil conditions for opening negotiations. Apart from the ongoing Bulgarian veto, the stalled process of normalisation of relations in the region is the other sore point highlighted in the reports.
This draws the following questions: How does the 2021 Enlargement Package support the building of a stronger Europe? What are the incentives offered to the Western Balkans through this Package? Does the current toolkit possess enough tools to deal with regional’s sensitive, yet complex issues while addressing the Fundamentals?
As this issue remains highly relevant everyday life of citizens, all while being very detailed and complex, the aim of the event is to gather relevant experts who could untangle what has been done so far in these areas and what remains to be done to make sure that the 2021 Enlargement Package is implemented effectively and efficiently. To get multi-layered answers to the problem, the panellists from think tanks from the countries of Western Balkan will give their inputs at this event organised jointly by the Think for Europe Network (TEN) and the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).
The 2021 Enlargement Package will be presented by Maciej Popowski, Acting Director-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, followed by 5-minute reactions from:
– Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of Governing Board, European Policy Centre (CEP), Belgrade – Haris Ćutahija, Researcher, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI BH), Sarajevo – Marko Sošić, Policy Analyst, Institute Alternative (IA), Podgorica – Arbëresha Loxha Stublla, Executive Director and Senior Research Fellow, Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS), Pristina – Gjergji Vurmo, Programme Director, Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), Tirana – Ardita Abazi Imeri, Programme Coordinator, European Policy Institute (EPI), Skopje
Moderator: Milena Lazarević, CEP Programme Director
After that, an open discussion with the audience will be held.
Participants will be able to ask questions either by raising a virtual hand, after which they will be turned on with a camera and microphone, or by leaving comments or using the Q&A option, and after reactions, the moderator will read these questions.
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