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    • Relationship between the Western Balkans and the EU Needs to Adapt to the New Normal

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    • Date: 19 October 2018

      foto: Aleksandar Andjic
      foto: Aleksandar Andjic
      The new normal requires that the EU changes its approach to the Balkans and identifies problems concerning the rule of law and democracy, but also that the Balkans change its approach to the EU, it was concluded at the eight Belgrade Security Forum (BSF) held on 17-19 October 2018.

      Politicians alone are not going to tackle corruption because of their vested interest in nurturing kleptocratic networks; citizens and civil society have to get involved to lay healthy grounds, it was pointed out at the panel dedicated to discussing high level corruption.

      “The first victim of defence corruption is the defence system itself. Corruption in procurement can result in soldiers going out on the field with faulty equipment,“ said Belgrade Centre for Security Policy researcher Katarina Djokic who participated at the panel.

      Panel "High Level Corruption and International Security" / foto: Aleksandar Andjic
      Panel "High Level Corruption and International Security" / foto: Aleksandar Andjic

      Academic Event at this year’s BSF was dedicated to answering the question how conflict-sensitive is the EU crisis response. Participants concluded that the EU shifted to a more pragmatic approach and improved its crisis response capacities, but that it needs to learn from both successes and failures more quickly. It was agreed that the local has to be included on different levels, but with re-examining what ’local’ means.

      “The term local has become a buzzword in policy and academic circles in recent years, with an emphasis on local participation, local buy-in, local legitimacy etc. But where and what is the local, and how do outsiders access it?” Roger Mac Ginty, Professor at Durham University pointed out.

      EU’s main emphasis was on institution and capacity building and short term security, rather than ensuring lasting results and long term-stability, Senior Researcher at NUPI Pernille Rieker underlined. However, actions have shown that the EU is willing to adapt, Rieker added. Morten Bøès, Research Professor at NUPI also warned that the EU must stop using a “top-down” approach. It must find a better way of transferring knowledge from the ground back to Brussels, Bøès said closing the Academic Event.

      After the event, young researchers had the chance to talk about their career paths and receive advice from more experienced colleagues at the Method Café.

      Academic Event / foto: Aleksandar Andjic
      Academic Event / foto: Aleksandar Andjic

      One of the panels that sparked the most interest was dedicated to Belgrade-Pristina relations. Quality of life and security of everyone living in Kosovo should be the top priority of the dialogue. Status quo and actions that benefit only one side are harmful for both communities, and the agreement cannot be that one side wins all while the other loses everything, participants agreed, even though they have different points of view on the issue.

      “We need to put down all the labels and introduce ethics in politics, to address how the people are living”, said Gordana Comic, Deputy Speaker, Parliament of Serbia.
      “Answers to ‘the games’ between Belgrade and Pristina lie in the two societies, not politicians, who are the ones benefitting from the status quo,“ remarked Agon Maliqi, Policy Analyst and Co-founding Editor of sbunker.net

      Panel "Where Is the New Phase of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Taking Us?" / foto: Aleksandar Andjic
      Panel "Where Is the New Phase of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Taking Us?" / foto: Aleksandar Andjic

      Reforms in the area of rule of law are one of the key elements for reconciliation in the region, but the key catalyst is the EU and messages it is sending. This was the main point of the think-tankers’ panel on the future of Balkans in the 2025 perspective.

      „The reconciliation process depends on the parties that prosecute those responsible for war crimes. There are not going to be steps forward without advancement in the rule of law and fact-finding through intergovernmental efforts,“ said Ana Marjanovic Rudan from the Politikon Network and Praxis Development.

      Panel "Balkans 2025: What Kind of Future Can We Expect?"  / foto: Aleksandar Andjic
      Panel "Balkans 2025: What Kind of Future Can We Expect?" / foto: Aleksandar Andjic

      Maintaining peace and tranquillity in the region is the foundation of progress in which the cooperation between Serbia and NATO plays an important role, and it benefits the economic progress that is an essential need of the citizens, it was highlighted during the conversation between the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg which was organized as a BSF special event on 8 October.

      Special Event "Leadership for a Secure Region"  / foto: Aleksandar Andjic
      Special Event "Leadership for a Secure Region" / foto: Aleksandar Andjic

      We should look for answers to the new normal, which entails crises in economy, politics and society, in learning as much as possible and in creating spaces free of fear incited by populist leaders, concluded members of the BSF Steering Committee Sonja Stojanovic Gajic (Belgrade Centre for Security Policy), Suzana Grubjesic (European Movement in Serbia) and Sonja Licht (Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence) closing the event.

      “One of the direct recommendations of the BSF is that the approach of EU to the Western Balkans and the engagement of the region with the Union need to change. The main change has to be an open identification of the problems concerning the rule of law and democracy”, said Stojanovic Gajic.
      “There is a pathological form of the new normal, and that is the alternative right, populist movements that are all around us and that are shaking the foundations of international order, and most of all, the EU,” Grubjesic emphasized.
      “We have to be ready for it, even as a small and relatively underdeveloped country. We can leap very high if we prepare ourselves on time,“ concluded Licht.

      Closing Adress / foto: Aleksandar Andjic
      Closing Adress / foto: Aleksandar Andjic

      Find out more about all of the topics discussed at the eight Belgrade Security Forum.

       

      Belgrade Security Forum presents the most relevant event where key actors meet and discuss foreign affairs and security policy in Balkans and Europe. Initiated by civil society organizations, it considers different perspectives and opinions and contributes to resolution of most pressing issues. BSF is organized since 2011 by three partner civil society organizations - the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy and the European Movement in Serbia.

       

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