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Growing Together or Moving Apart?

The Western Balkans In The European Union

Online Conference

07.09.2020 - 09.09.2020



The future development of the Western Balkans including the region’s integration into the EU continues to be . The COVID-19 pandemic as well as growing opposition to further EU enlargement has recently complicated the situation. 20 years after the Zagreb summit in November 2000 which opened the perspective of European integration and after profound crises in the region, the future of the Western Balkans seems less certain than during the 2000s. Revanchism, ethno-nationalism, and authoritarian developments risk being the key feature of the 2020s. Brain drain and information disorder weaken perspectives of future prosperity.


While taking into account the various challenges within and among the countries of the region as well as with and inside the European Union, this expert conference pursues a forward-looking approach and aims to develop innovative ideas which might help to stop that the Western Balkans and the EU are growing further apart. Together with practitioners and experts coming from the countries of the region and across the EU, we will address three intertwined challenges – namely authoritarian rule, ongoing ethno-political cleavages, and the search for a new European approach for the region. Jointly we will try to identify opportunities and approaches for possible new solutions.



Montag, 07.09.2020
14:45 Uhr

Thomas MÜLLER-FÄRBER, International and Security Affairs, Protestant Academy Loccum

Tobias FLESSENKEMPER, Board Member of the Southeast Europe Association (Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft – SOG), Düsseldorf/Belgrade

15:00 Uhr
KEY-NOTE LECTURE │ The Western Balkans in the European Union: A difficult relationship

Between “enlargement fatigue” and “accession refusal”, the Western Balkans cannot be detached from the European Union as a region, yet today the perspectives of “togetherness” seem more elusive than 2003 when the EU promised their full integration. This key-note lecture will introduce the range of issues, opportunities, and challenges of a difficult relationship and provide an overview of current and historic developments that shape the Western Balkans predicament. How will this region, surrounded by EU Member States, find its place in the political, cultural, social, economic and institutional construction of Europe?

Florian BIEBER, Professor of Southeast European History and Politics and Director of the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz, & & Board Member of the Southeast Europe Association (Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft – SOG), Vienna

16:00 Uhr

16:30 Uhr
OPENING ROUND-TABEL DISCUSSION │ The Western Balkans in the European Union: What next?

This open round-tabel discussion will allow for a panoramic overview on the ideas, initiatives, and concerns regarding the immediate future of the region and Europe as a whole. The purpose is to identify possible pathways for new, alternative or forgotten approaches to overcome the current political and diplomatic gridlocks, to reduce elements of state capture, from which the region is suffering, and to develop positive visions for European “togetherness” against the backdrop of a continental surge of revanchism, glorification of war criminals and abusive use of history. In that sense, this discussion shall nurture the work of the second day of the conference and allows to test ways out of ossified structures of thinking about Europe and the Balkans.


Clive RUMBOLD, Senior Expert, Western Balkans Division, European External Action Service, Brussels

Simonida KACARSKA, Director, European Policy Institute, Skopje

Josip JURATOVIC, Member of the German Parliament (SPD), Spokesperson of the Subcommittee on Crisis Prevention and Conflict Resolution and Member of the Foreign Affairs Committe, Vice-President of the Southeast Europe Association (Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft –SOG), Berlin/Heilbronn

Jasmin MUJANOVIC, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies at Elon University and author of the book “Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans”, Elon

Moderator: Christian HAGEMANN, Deputy Director, Southeast Europe Association (Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft – SOG), Munich

17:30 Uhr

17:45 Uhr
Continued discussion

19:15 Uhr
End of discussion

Dienstag, 08.09.2020
14:30 Uhr
POLICY DISCUSSON │ What to Do? How to Move on With the European Policy Towards the Western Balkans?

The purpose of this panel is to provide insight into the current policy debate about the future approach towards the six Western Balkan states. What will be Brussels approach towards the region in the years to come? What does Western Europe want from the region – what’s its interests? What are possible scenarios for the future development of the region if there will be no promising approach by the EU? What are the entry points for a policy debate about a strategy for the future? Etc.?

Majlinda BREGU, Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council, Sarajevo

Viola von CRAMON-TAUBADEL, Member of the European Parliament (Group of the Greens), Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Brussels

Peter BEYER, Member of the German Parliament (CDU), Foreign Affairs Committee, Coordinator for the transatlantic relations and Vice-President of the Southeast Europe Association (Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft –SOG), Berlin/Ratingen

Valérie RABAULT, Assemblée nationale, President of the Group of Parti socialiste in parliament, Paris

Moderation: Florent MARCIACQ, French-Austrian Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (CFA / ÖFZ), Vienna

16:00 Uhr
End of discussion

Mittwoch, 09.09.2020
11:15 Uhr
CONCLUDING PLENARY SESSION│ Way Ahead: Key Take Aways of the Conference and What Shall We Do With it?

Christiane HULLMANN, Head of Western Balkan Division, German Federal Foreign Office, Berlin

Gordan BAKOTA, Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia in Germany, Berlin

Vedran DZIHIC, Senior Research at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs (oiip), lecture at the University of Vienna and non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, Vienna

Peter GRK, National Coordinator for Western Balkans, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Slovenia, Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Secretary-General, Bled Strategic Forum Ljubljana

Manuel SARRAZIN, Member of the German Parliament (Bündnis 90/die Grünen), Foreign Affairs Committee and
European Committee, President of the Southeast Europe Association, Hamburg/Berlin

Moderation: Thomas MÜLLER-FÄRBER, Protestant Academy Loccum

13:00 Uhr
End of discussion