Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis” in cooperation with the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and with support of European External Action Service (EEAS) organised the panel discussion “What can we do for the EU? Western Balkans contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe – Voices from the region” as part of the Prespa Forum Dialogue.

This event is the first in a series of public and civic contributions from the region to the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), already registered at the Conference platform.

The panel tackled the questions of how much the Western Balkan citizens and institutions are interested in and are following the debate on the Future of Europe, what could be their contribution in shaping the Union’s future policies and ambitions, and is the Conference on the Future of Europe ready to listen and to take into consideration the expectations of the Western Balkans from the family they want to join.

The focus of the discussion was also on the diversification of the European supply chains and the green transition and the “greening of the Western Balkans economies”.

The discussion was joined by Jacques Maire, member of the French National Assembly, Tanja Fajon, member of the European Parliament, Angelina Eichhorst, Managing Director, Western Europe, Western Balkans, Turkey and United Kingdom at the EEAS, Roderick Parkes, Research Director at the German Council of Foreign Relations (DGAP), Jovana Marović, Executive Director of the Politikon Network and member of BiEPAG, Alba Çela, Executive Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, Aleksandra Tomanić, Executive Director at the European Fund for the Balkans, Donika Emini, Executive Director at CiviKos Platform and member of BiEPAG and Nedžma Džananović, Associate Professor, Faculty of Political Science, University of Sarajevo. The discussion was moderated by Zoran Nechev, researcher at Institute for Democracy and member of BiEPAG. The rapporteur was Jasna Jelisic, Head of Western Balkans Task Force at the EEAS.

Maire emphasized that the request for visibility and participation coming from the Western Balkans is fully understandable and added that it is expected from the region to contribute to the discussion on the high-priority issues related to enlargement.

According to Tomanic, the Western Balkan countries need to be included into all climate and green economy plans of the EU.

Fajon emphasized that Europe will not be whole, until the accession process is completed with the Western Balkans in it and added that the citizens should be properly involved in the CoFoE.

Marovic said that involvement of the citizens and politicians of the WB in the Conference on the Future of Europe should be understood as a gradual integration, which should help contribute to the rule of law and democracy in the region.

Eichhorst stressed that EU can learn much from its neighbors about its role in the world. She stated that there must be a unification of the continent, and EU should be more discussed as an idea that people should mobilise around for. She suggests that the region should bring ideas to the CoFoE virtually and share their expectations in every way they can.

Emini said that the Western Balkans can contribute to the discussion on security issues and that the region can bring freshness and the energy not only to the CoFoE but to EU in general.

Parkes talked about how can WB societies and governments can use CoFoE to shape the debate in EU capitals and society. He said that the process like this is a good opportunity to push back against a negative perspective on EU’s geopolitical role.

Cela said that the fact that Western Balkan countries, their societies and experts are not formally included in CoFoE is a missed opportunity for both sides, the Western Balkan and the EU. According to her, despite the reservations and skepticism of some, the Western Balkans are part of Europe, their future is Europe’s future.

Dzananovic highlighted that It is never too early to discuss the future of Europe. Time matters, especially for the Western Balkans and its EU Integration as a multi-generational process.

You can watch the video from the panel discussion here.