As one of the most significant high-level conferences in the region, the Belgrade Security Conference gathered over 300 participants and 50 speakers from various avenues, such as government officials, diplomats, the think tank community, civil society, media, and academia. Igor Bandović, Director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, and Srđan Cvijić, President of the BCSP's International Advisory Committee, opened the conference. The comprehensive take on security challenges included panel discussions on the war in Ukraine, regional instability, EU Enlargement, energy topics, and the state of democracy in the region.
The opening statements included a reflection on the fragility of peace against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the escalation of violence in the Middle East, and regional security threats such as the recent attacks in Kosovo. Furthermore, the organizers emphasized the need to address the reality of the current state of arts globally and realistically assess the region's future. The conference also paid homage to Milovan Milovanović, a Serbian statesman and diplomat, and his views on what Serbian foreign policy should be. “This year’s conference is dedicated to Milovan Milovanović, a diplomat and statesman. Milovanović liked naval metaphors, believing that Serbia should tie itself to a larger ship to find a safe harbor. Russia is not that ship at this moment,” said Srđan Cvijić.
Apart from the overall support to the project that the Belgrade Security Conference is, FES Dialogue SOE and FES Serbia and Montenegro collaborated on two thematic discussions on the agenda, „Zeitenwende: A U-turn Nobody Predicted“ and „State Capture in the Western Balkans and the World. “ Both discussions gathered insights from renowned regional and international experts such as Nikola Dimitrov, Jelena Pejić Nikić, Reinhard Priebe, Lenche Ristoska, Rachel Tausendfreund, Florian Bieber, Christoph Matschie, and Anna Kuchenbecker.
In the first discussion, we discussed the momentous shift in Germany's evolving foreign policy following the onset of the war in Ukraine. Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Zeitenwende speech, delivered shortly after Russia's aggression in Ukraine, promised a "180-degree course correction." This included a substantial €100 billion fund for increased military spending. The speech received widespread support from German and international leaders, igniting hopes that Germany could transform into a geopolitical powerhouse overnight. Our panelists delved deeper into assessing this significant shift, the implications that it will have, and what remains to be done on the EU level.
In the second discussion, supported by our colleagues in Belgrade, experts explored the intricate concept of a "captured state," emphasizing that it extends beyond mere corruption and affects various facets of society. This phenomenon involves the subordination of state institutions, judiciary, media, and free speech to political and private interests, as North Macedonia's experience exemplifies. The panelists stressed the need for comprehensive reforms and an "inside-out" approach, with civil society and free media playing crucial roles in combatting state capture and fostering the rule of law in the Western Balkans.
While the conference did emphasize the role of Serbia in regional security topics and foreign policy, the overall discussions at this edition of BSC went beyond. They covered many significant angles, including the European Political Community, state capture, unmasking election meddlers, the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, feminist foreign policy, cyber security, and philanthropy. It remains an essential regional forum for discussing these topics. FES Dialogue SOE is honored to have contributed to yet another successful edition, in line with our commitment to improving democracy and stability in Southeast Europe.
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