Western Balkans Perspectives on the Future of Europe: Tirana

From 12 to 14th of October, Western Balkans Perspectives on the Future of Europe gathered progressive and engaged politicians, academia members, think-thankers, and activists in Tirana, for the last focus group discussion this year. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe organized the event in cooperation with the Austro-French Center for Rappreuchement in Europe.

The first day of the event was opened by a welcome address from the organizers, Dr. Ralf Melzer (FES SOE), Harun Cero (FES SOE), and Dr. Florent Marciacq (OFZ/CFA), and followed the same organizational structure as the previous sessions in this project. The engaged civil society representatives and citizens of Albania were split into two groups to discuss the potentials for Western Balkans' potential contributions to Europe they would like to see in the future. The moderators of the focused discussions were project facilitators Blerta Tuci, Igor Bandović, Lura Pollozhani, and Visar Xhambazi. As with focus group discussion in all regional capitals, the candid and valuable insights from the participants will be summarized in a manifesto of regional perspectives on the Future of Europe.

The evening portion of the discussions hosted Etilda Gjonaj, former Minister of Justice in Albania, for a conversation on Albania's EU-integration path, the reforms that have thus far taken place, and the necessary future steps to advance the cooperation and the Enlargement process. The conversation with Ms. Gjonaj was followed by an address from Ms. Claire Nantier, Deputy Head of Mission for the French Embassy in Albania. Ms. Nantier shared her own opinions on the future of the Enlargement but also commented on certain expectations from the region that are looking at France's foreign policy, and particularly the French presidency of the European Council in the first part of 2022.

For the second day of the gathering in Tirana, and with focused discussions that have taken place throughout the region, the organizers got to work on the second portion of the Western Balkans Perspectives project. Our team of 12 facilitators from WB6 began summarizing the inputs and conclusions from all the conversations organized in 2020 and 2021. The summary that they started working on will take final shape as a manifesto of Western Balkans demands and offers for an inclusive vision of the future of Europe, as a Union and as a collective.

The manifesto is currently in progress, and in 2021 will be available for reading by the end of 2021. Organizers and facilitators of Western Balkans Perspectives on the Future of Europe will devote 2022 to promoting the vision of the WB6 for a European Union that the region truly aspires to join.

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