This online discussion on the Balkans was chaired by Milica Delevic, Director for Governance and Political Affairs at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Prior to this, Ms. Delevic was Director of the European Integration Office of the Serbian Government and Assistant Foreign Minister, and chaired the Committee for European Integration in the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia.
There is increasing pessimism about the south-eastern part of Europe: concerns about unresolved political tensions in the Western Balkans, rule of law challenges and persistent economic fragility. The Covid pandemic has sharpened the tensions, offering new risks and opportunities through the involvement of external actors.
Is this is the end of the road for efforts by the EU to present itself as the main problem-solver in the region? Is there still any hope that it can provide the framework required for them to achieve stability and prosperity? What lessons have been learnt from recent successes and failures in the EU’s support to the region, and what are the dangers of the Balkans once again becoming an arena for great power competition? These questions were explored by the following speakers:
*Carl Bildt, Co-Chair, European Council on Foreign Relations; Swedish Prime Minister (1991-94); Special Envoy for former Yugoslavia then High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995-97); Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General’s for the Balkans (1999-2001); Foreign Minister of Sweden (2006-2014); now WHO Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator)
*Majlinda Bregu, Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council; Albanian Minister of European Integration and Government spokesperson (2007-13); Chair, European Integration Committee of the Albanian Parliament (2013-17)
*Tim Judah, Writer, commentator and journalist on international affairs; Balkans Correspondent, The Economist; Author of three books on the region; President of the Board of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network
Participants included: Charles Grant (Director, Centre for European Reform); Ivan Vejvoda (Head of Europe’s Futures Programme, Institute for Human Sciences; Senior Advisor to Serbian Prime Ministers Zoran Djindjic and Zoran Zivkovic); Petrit Selimi (CEO, Millennium Foundation; Former Foreign Affairs Minister of Kosovo); François Lafond (Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, North Macedonia); Alastair King-Smith (British Ambassador-designate to Albania); Anna Kuchenbecker (Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, ECFR); Anne-Elisabeth Moutet (Columnist, The Telegraph); William Wells (Executive Vice Chairman, Central & South Eastern Europe, Rothschild & Co).