Western Balkans Perspectives on the Future of Europe: Sarajevo

On 20th of November, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe and the Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe organized the second focus group discussion in the Western Balkans Discuss the Future of Europe series. The event gathered academics, journalists, politicians, members of parliaments, activists, and other opinion-makers alike from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Event was opened by welcoming remarks from Dr. Ralf Melzer (FES SOE) and Harun Cero (FES SOE). The discussion in the focus groups were kicked-off and moderated by strategic facilitators of the program, Viktor Mitevski (ZMAI), Jovana Spremo (Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights), Rasim Ibrahimagić (Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of BiH) and Anida Šabanović (FPI BH).

The participants were divided into two groups, and the discussion aimed to single out possible contributions of the Western Balkans could make to the making of Europe and reform of the Union. Both discussion groups had the task of tackling two questions:

  • What should the European Union, that the WB6 countries would like to join, be about and what should it seek to achieve?
  • What distinct contributions could the WB6 make towards advancing the European project, how can thair membership strengthen the Union?

The discussion was engaging, and benefited largely from the diverse backgrounds of the speakers. The first question prompted insightful remarks regarding the perception of EU institutions. For example, the participants highlighted existing mistrust towards the EU Commission because of the perceived massive lobbying attempts.

The conclusions of the discussion suggest that uneven distribution of resources should ideally be addressed through more active participation of citizens, that have the right to be more informed and have and impact on the future decision.  One of the key remarks on the future of European Union as a relevant and trusted actor is to preserve and strengthen liberal democracy within the Union itself, and to further promote progressive policies, without being populist.

When it comes to distinct contributions, the participants highlighted several prominent characteristics of the Western Balkans, that could be of benefit to an enlarged Union. The specific geographical location of the region results in its diverse and opulent natural resources, that according to our discutants could be turned into a sustainable resource that would benefit the economies of the WB6 and the EU.

The human capital, especially when it comes to the youth in the region, shold not be neglected. The strong will of the youngsters to leave their home countries should be transformed into potential for circular migration. Last, but certainly not the least, culture of the Western Balkans could bring a distinct new enrichment to the European Union.

This was the final event for 2020 in the Western Balkans Perspectives on the Future of Europe. The program continues next year, with new discussions across the region and in the European Union Member States.

Dialogue Southeast Europe

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Bosnia and Herzegovina

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