Europe and Russia on the Balkan Front: online conference

15 March 2023 – An online conference called “The EU and Russia on the Balkan Front”, that European Policy Centre (CEP), organised with partners Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCBP), GLOBSEC, Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS) was held today.

At the first panel of the conference, the participants were Milena Lazarević, Programme Director in CEP, Andrea Cascone from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, Senada Šelo Šabić from the Institute for Development and International Relations and Juraj Kuruc from GLOBSEC. The first panel focused on the region’s relations with the European Union and the relations between Western Balkans and the EU since the beginning of the Ukraine war. 

Lazarević introduced Template for Staged Accession to the EU as a proposal to further motivate countries to continue their EU accession processes and to motivate member states towards further enlargement. 

“Our proposal serves both of these goals. On the one hand, it motivates the reforms and provides additional incentives for them in the regions and in the countries that are acceding to the EU, but also finds ways to provide at least temporary solutions to the problems which EU members see when it comes to further enlargement”, said Lazarević.

Milena Lazarević also presented the structure and key points of the proposal: “The proposal was made with a new methodology to build a new ‘floor on the house’ that the European Union is already building. The staged accession model also proposes financial support for socio-economic reforms in the region. The key difference is that the proposal gives the ability to ‘unlock’ new levels instead of opening and closing chapters and clusters. A country in the process of accession would open and close chapters, but would also ‘unlock’ levels that provide benefits now reserved only for member states.”

In the continuation of the panel, participants discussed Russia’s influence on the Western Balkans during the Ukraine war. 

Andrea Cascone concluded that the Ukraine war offers a historical opportunity for Serbia to finally align with the EU regarding its foreign policy and that it is up to the EU to ensure that Serbia fully seizes the opportunity and understand that alignment with EU in this area is the right decision for its European future. 

In the second panel, called “Kosovo-Serbia: Where a New Dialogue Is Needed”, the relations between Serbia and Kosovo were discussed, as well as the perspective of the presented agreement. The participants of the second panel were Maja Bjeloš from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Michael Davenport, Head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo and Mentor Vajolli from the Kosovo Centre for Security Studies. Giorgio Fruscone from ISPI moderated this panel. 

You can watch the video from the conference here.