Throughout the world, think tanks are operating against a backdrop of declining democracy and freedoms. Freedom of expression is being undermined by increasingly popular anti-liberal narratives and the erosion of the rule of law, narrowing the space for evidence-based policy advocacy and advice. At the same time, limited funding opportunities are threatening the sustainability of think tanks and affecting the quality and integrity of policy research. In today’s information-rich environment, the marketplace of ideas has never been more competitive. How can think tanks stand out? To what extent are the strategies and structures of think tanks adapted to emerging national and global democracy issues? These issues will be addressed in the first panel of the day, entitled “The Future of Think Tanks in the Context of the Global Democratic Crisis”.
The second panel, “Serbia and the Western Balkans between East and West – what role for Think Tanks?”, will examine the political and economic environment in which think tanks in the Western Balkans operate. There are growing doubts about the region’s European perspective following a series of postponements in the opening of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia and the announcement of reforms of the enlargement methodology. Although Montenegro and Serbia are forerunners in the process, membership is still a long way off, especially after EU member states largely dismissed the 2025 membership perspective. This has resulted in a weakening of the EU’s gravitational force in the region, allowing space for other global and regional powers. The increase in economic cooperation between Serbia and China, as well as Serbia’s signing of a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, has made this especially clear. On top of this, the Western Balkans is still unable to address the issue of state capture, regional trade issues and unresolved political disputes. This panel will assess the scope of the political and economic influence that the EU and other foreign actors have on the Western Balkan region, and discuss the role of think tanks in stimulating fact-based and informative debates.
To address this series of pertinent questions, CEP is for the third time joining hundreds of leading think tanks worldwide in hosting simultaneous national events as part of the 2019 Go To Think Tank Index Report Launch, promoted by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the Lauder Institute, University of Pennsylvania, USA.