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Panel 3: Western Balkans, Emerging from the New Disorder (in Partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands)

Panel 3: Western Balkans, Emerging from the New Disorder (in Partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands)

Discussion points:

  • What are the main security concerns of the “illiberal equilibrium” in the region?
  • Is the Balkan stabilocracy finally losing its shine?
  • Is the future of Europe debate to shelve or fast-track the EU enlargement process? Can the EU candidate and aspiring countries keep up?
  • How is the dynamic of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue affecting the regional relations? What are the geopolitical consequences?
  • What are the new regional cooperation opportunities at hand in a yet another crisis? Will the great potential of the “new accession block” to share the experiences in the accession process and coordinate common positions be realized and how soon?
  • Where will all the migrants in the Western Balkans go?

 

The region of the Western Balkans is often seen as “stuck in an illiberal equilibrium”. In Serbia, the majority of the opposition boycotted the elections, allowing for a landslide win for the ruling party. Kosovo went through a political crisis culminating in the overthrow of the government during an unprecedented pandemic. A closer look, however, shows some sign of change. In Montenegro, Milo Đukanović’s DPS – in power for three decades – suffered its first electoral defeat; and in North Macedonia Zoran Zaev just managed to hold on, announcing an ambitious plan to close accession negotiations with the EU in six years. Both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania are due for elections, but no major change is expected.

On top of democracy backsliding and straggling media freedom, the region was hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, both economically and socially. Public outcry was particularly loud in Serbia as the government introduced lockdowns and curfews, halting economic activity and breaching constitutional rights. The COVID-19 crisis is not over yet and the prospects for the future, as government bailout programs end, are far from clear.

Once a dominant issue in the region was the migrant crisis, however it is now sidelined by the COVID-19 and the Belgrade-Pristina relations, even though still far from being resolved with hundreds testing their luck along the “route” every day.

Two devastating earthquakes shook two region’s capitals – Tirana in 2019 and Zagreb in 2020, attracting a lot of attention and financial and material aid from the neighbors proving some regional spirit still exists.