Sarajevo Security Conference 2023

Following the theme of security conversations across Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina hosted its inaugural Sarajevo Security Conference titled "The Balkans: A Soft Spot for European Security?" This milestone event gathered over 200 participants and featured more than 40 speakers from 15 countries worldwide, marking one of the most significant diplomatic gatherings for the country this year. The conference commenced with a ceremony at the Sarajevo City Hall, followed by two days of intense and thought-provoking discussions.

© Strategic Analysis Initiative

© Strategic Analysis Initiative

© Strategic Analysis Initiative

© Strategic Analysis Initiative

© Strategic Analysis Initiative

Participants included high-level politicians, diplomats, renowned international experts, members of the think-tank industry, and civil society representatives. The program comprised seven thematic debates covering topics such as European security post the beginning of the war in Ukraine, transatlantic security, the roles of NATO and the European Union, corruption, cyber security, and the influence of religious and cultural factors on Southeast European geopolitics. A recurring theme throughout these discussions was assessing malign foreign influence, particularly the Russian agenda in the region.

In addition to their conference contributions, FES Dialogue SOE co-organized a panel discussion on "The War in Ukraine and European Security Challenges." The discussion featured Dr. Joe Weingarten, a Member of Parliament from Germany, who serves on the Defense Committee and the Subcommittee on Disarmament, Arms Control, and Non-Proliferation, as well as Simon Weiß, a Researcher for FES Regional Office for Cooperation and Peace in Europe. The Deputy of the German Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Bernhard Abels, delivered opening remarks at the conference, highlighting the importance of events like #SSC2023 for regional cooperation and stability.

FES SOE Team members Harun Cero and Ema Smolo made valuable contributions to two additional panel discussions during the conference, focusing on "Transatlantic Security and the Balkans after 24 February 22" and "The Balkans: under EU's or NATO's Security Umbrella?"

Although the three days of multi-sectoral and comprehensive debates raised numerous questions about security challenges in the region and the world, there were several critical common threads in the conclusions of the first Sarajevo Security Conference. Notably, while the war in Ukraine sent shockwaves throughout Europe, most participants concurred that Russian malign influence on European security matters had hinted at escalation long before. This underscores the importance of cooperation to combat antidemocratic, destabilizing factors in the Western Balkans today. Many speakers emphasized that, regardless of potential obstacles, fatigue, and existing dissatisfaction with the progress of Euro-Atlantic integrations, Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with other regional countries, must continue to nurture a pro-democratic approach, focusing on critical reforms and building resilience.

The Sarajevo Security Conference marked the first project of the newly established think-tank, Strategic Analysis Initiative. It was organized in partnership with FES SOE, the United States Institute for Peace, the UK Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in BiH, the Cyber Security Excellence Center, and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. FES SOE takes pride in its contribution to this newly established platform in the region, where a common understanding of shared values was reflected throughout the discussions.

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