• Times of Crisis, Time for Think Tanks: Case of the Western Balkans

    Belgrade, 29 January 2021 – For the fourth time, CEP had the honour to join hundreds of leading think tanks worldwide in hosting simultaneous national events as part of the 2020 Global 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.

    Milena Lazarevic, CEP’s Programme Director, Simonida Kacarska, Director of the European Policy Institute (EPI), Skopje, Milena Muk, Programme Director of the Institute Alternative, Montenegro and Milan Antonijevic, Executive Director of the Open Society Foundation Serbia took part in the online panel discussion, titled Times of Crisis, Time for Think Tanks: Case of the Western Balkans. They have discussed the challenges and opportunities for think tanks in inducing democratic transformation in the Western Balkans and reflect on how they can position themselves in a post-pandemic world.

    Lazarevic pointed out that the ranking of think tanks is less important than, as she says, the greatest contribution of this initiative: the fact that it brought together think tanks from all over the world in one place. “Increasing international cooperation within the think tank community, which has been extremely accelerated since the beginning of the COVID pandemic is a very positive thing. Think tanks need to partner up their resources even beyond the concrete project because very few think tanks have resources to tackle and respond to the crisis,” she said.

    She also added that she believes that, when is in their best interest, the government will listen to think tanks’ recommendations. “At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we presented 10 economic measures to combat it. The government adopted almost everything after a few days – because it recognized that it was in their best interest,” she said. “However, there is a lot of work to do concerning the involvement of think tanks in the policymaking process, increasing the citizens’ participation, and making the government realise the importance of the rule of law,” Lazarevic said.

    Simonida Kacarska agreed with her, saying that the pandemic has shown how easy think tanks around the world can communicate. “I know many of us can’t wait to travel again, but this pandemic has meant a lot to show how collaboration is possible at almost no financial cost,” said Kacarska.

    “Think tanks in the Western Balkans did not allow COVID-19 crisis to put democratic accountability in the back seat”, added Kacarska. “They continued to monitor governments and reminded them when overstepping limitations of human rights.”

    In Montenegro, after almost three decades of the same government, there was a change in last year’s elections, which Milena Muk defines as “historic”. She says think tanks continued to “work as usual” during the pandemic, only in different circumstances.

    “We will keep the focus on our mission, and also try to have a corrective partnership with the new government,” Muk said.

    Antonijevic said that the fight for democracy and the rule of law is something that never ends, and there is always a risk of backsliding. “No matter how much we achieve, we should never forget that we can ‘lose’ the governments in a second – we can see by example what is happening in some European countries, who have serious problems with backslidings,” Antonijevic said.

    We are proud to inform you that, for the fourth year in a row, European Policy Centre (CEP) is the highest-ranked think tank organisation in Serbia and in the Western Balkan region. CEP is also ranked among the ten best research organisations in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, placing seventh.

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