Reflection Forum Ljubljana: "Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union"

The series of Reflection Fora on the Western Balkans in the European Union continued with a panel event on 28.03. in Ljubljana, Slovenia under the title “From Rome to Trieste: Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union”.

The FES co-hosted this event in coordination with the Centre for European Perspective (CEP) and a consortium of organizations leading the series of Reflection Fora: Centre International de Formation Européenne (CIFE), Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and the Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (ÖFZ/CFA).

The event focused on the accession perspective of the Western Balkans to the European Union, considering the Rome Summit (which took place on March 25 this year) where discussions centered on the EU’s own future development. Similarly, the Western Balkans are preparing for their ‘own’ summit with EU partners in Trieste on 12 July.

The debate revolved around the theme of whether a (re-)definition of enlargement might contribute to reflections on the future of the EU. It was acknowledged that EU-internal dynamics hava a direct influence in the aspiring countries. Regarding this, panelists underlined the need for a stronger Union, a ‘Social Europe’, with a continued commitment to enlargement.

The Berlin Process was seen as having the potential to create opportunities for the Western Balkan countries, despite unsatisfactory initial results. Ideas such as a ‘regionalization of conditionality’ were brought up as a possible means of fostering genuine cooperation among countries.

All panelists agreed that civil society, a strong advocate of reform and EU membership, should be empowered further within the Berlin Process.

Comments from the public showed a concern about emigration, the lack of socio-economic reforms, the seeming dilemma of either supporting stability or democratization and the contributions of the Berlin Process in that regard.

The event was attended by diplomatic representatives in Slovenia, representatives of the Slovenian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, EU officials, as well as by students and academia.

The series will continue with a larger gathering of think tanks in Trieste in the end of June.

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