The Western Balkans Summit in Poznań (3-5 July 2019) was inaugurated as an expert-orientated event with the main topics defined as European aspirations of the region and the future of the Berlin Process. Numerous experts, journalists, representatives of state administrations and non-governmental organizations from both the Western Balkans and European Union countries had gathered to the event.
Organized by the Center for Eastern Studies, the Think Tank Forum was the culmination of many months of preparations of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, state agencies and non-governmental organizations put into several dozen projects both in Poland and the Western Balkan region. The purpose of these several dozen projects was to better the understanding of the countries of the Western Balkans, and therein to convey the priorities of the Polish Presidency in the Berlin Process in a more elaborate manner.
The Think Tank Forum in Poznań was opened by Mr. Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland and the plenipotentiary of the Polish government for the organization of the Western Balkans Poznań Summit. The Minister underscored how in the process of regional integration, non-governmental organizations are of utmost importance, and most particularly, as is their substantive and avid contribution to the discussion of current predicaments and challenges entangling the Western Balkans. Both the Minister and Mr. Mateusz Gniazdowski (the event leader, and Deputy Director of the Center for Eastern Studies) debated the currently ongoing cooperation between the Balkan non-governmental sector and public administration, as well as with the entities involved on the side of the EU states of the participants of the Berlin Process.
Within the Roundtable forum, where participants from the Western Balkans were also active, in addition to panelists, was an excellent opportunity to sum up nearly 5 years of the Berlin Process and exchange views on the future of this initiative.
The first session, Connecting the Dots, engaged and contemplated the Balkan Connectivity Agenda, which assumes the development of connections in the region, not only via means of the development of transport infrastructure, but also energy and digital infrastructure. The panelists discussed the current achievements in this field and the encumberments still facing the aspiration of the creation of a common economic zone in the region, which would certainly accelerate its development and better integrate it both internally and with the EU. This session was moderated by James Ker-Lindsay (Visiting Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom), and its participants included: Jelica Minić (President, Forum for International Relations of the European Movement, Serbia), Ardian Hackaj (Director, Cooperation and Development Institute, Albania), Silvana Mojsovska (Professor, Institute of Economics Skopje, Northern Macedonia), Nermin Oruč (Director, Centre for Development Evaluation and Social Science Research, Bosnia and Herzegovina) as well as Nenad Đurđević (Advisor to the President, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Serbia).
The second panel, Growing Together, addressed economic and social issues. Panelists talked about the current mechanisms of cooperation and economic aid from the EU. They distinguished key problems and challenges of the region, resulting, inter alia, from high unemployment, economic migration westwards into Europe or the outflow of young and educated workers (the phenomenon referred to as ‘brain drain’). This in-depth discussion also scrutinized problems at the local level, ranging from difficulties related to the implementation of high-level agreements and EU standards (where this level of authority is the most burdensome), on improving the quality of public services. Panelists also addressed imperatively important aspects, i.e. the rule of law, transparency and combatting corruption, which affect not only economic performance, but also social attitudes, which in turn affect the quality of life of citizens of the region’s countries. The moderator of this session was Piotr Arak (Director, Polish Economic Institute, Poland) and the corresponding panelists: Gershi Gashi (Policy Researcher, Democracy for Development, Kosovo), Jovana Marović (Executive Director, Politikon Network, Montenegro), Enkeleida Tahiraj (London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom), Maja Bobić (Vice President, European Movement, Serbia), Kelmend Zajazi (Executive Director, Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South East Europe, North Macedonia).
The third and final session, Challenges Ahead, as an apex of the first day of the Think Tank Forum in Poznań, was regarding the integration of the Western Balkans with the European Union in the light of the recent changes in the internal community and the new composition of the institution. Panelists examined the EU mechanisms of expanding the community and the functions and thereby possibilities of the Berlin Process, both at present and in the immediate next few years. The session was attended by: Vladimir Medak (Vice-President, European Movement, Serbia), Gjergji Vurmo (Program Director, Institute for Democracy and Mediation, Albania), Srđan Majstorović (Chairman of the Governing Board, European Policy Center, Serbia), Donika Emini (Researcher, Kosovar Center for Security Studies, Kosovo), Maciej Popowski (Deputy Director-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission), and moderated by Zoran Nechev (Senior Researcher, Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis, North Macedonia).
Source: Warsaw Institute