PANEL I: “WESTERN BALKANS BETWEEN UNRESOLVED PAST AND EMERGING CHALLENGES”
Consolidation of the European Union and the EU enlargement process should happen at the same time, because everything that remains out of the EU focus, such as the Balkans, could be an issue for the European Union, President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović said.
In the Keynote Speech, he stated that the integration of the Western Balkans is necessary. “There is no need to prove that this region has sent more than enough messages on the lack of capacities. Integration of the Western Balkans is the same as stability. Integration implies return of the countries of the Western Balkans to European civilization path”, Đukanović said.
Krasimir Karakachanov, Deputy Prime Minister for Public Order and Security and Minister of Defence of Bulgaria, stated that he was a bit disappointed because there was no clear commitment regarding timetable for the EU enlargement at the Sofia Summit. Karakachanov noted that the EU aspiring countries should not be advised, but the advice should be referred to Brussels not to impose rigid criteria and debt towards the Balkans.
Speaking of Euro-Atlantic integration, Executive Vice President of the USA Atlantic Council Damon Wilson said that it was not difficult to assess why Montenegro should be a member of NATO and that it is the same in the case of Macedonia. "The biggest challenge for this region is not to wait for Brussels and Washington, but to overcome our expectations before we even find out," Wilson said.
The Minister of Defence of Montenegro, Predrag Bošković, said that now the stability and security of our country is guaranteed by NATO membership. He pointed out that Montenegro is working on reforms regardless of the fact that the exact date of our country's entry into the EU is unknown. "The most important thing to note is that at this moment, Europe has more problems than the Western Balkan region. Challenges in the EU are more complex than those in the Western Balkans," Bošković said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Macedonia, Radmila Šekerinska Jankovska, speaking about her country's dispute with Greece, said that they had several bilateral meetings, and that negotiations have been lasting for almost 25 years. "No one can expect this to be the final agreement. We have to check this in public. But we are optimists, I believe that Macedonia has shown that the crisis has been used as a chance," Šekerinska Jankovska said. She estimated that nations in this region are accustomed to living in conditions of crisis.
Minister of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marina Pendeš, said that her country clearly defined the commitment to European and Euro-Atlantic integration, stating that it expects the MAP to be activated for BiH.
When it comes to the EU integration, she said she does not agree with the assessment that there is a status quo in that country, noting that BiH is a European country, although not a member of the European Union.
PANEL II: “EUROPE RIGHT NOW?”
In the Keynote Speech, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi said that Montenegro is an inspiration for the region, and the EU, supported by NATO, in terms of security, is the strongest peacekeeping mission to date. Thaçi said that he believes the agreement between Belgrade and Priština is difficult for both Serbia and Kosovo, stating that it is easier to overcome everything with a common European vision. Convinced that Kosovo will get its chair in the United Nations, Thaçi said that he believes that the process of mutual recognition will also begin.
Strengthening of radical movements should not be an excuse for the EU members not to open up the perspective of membership to the Balkan states, while nationalism is used to weaken independent judiciary, pluralism and media freedom – are some of the messages from the second panel.
Canada's Ambassador to Germany and Special Envoy to the European Union and Europe of the Prime Minister of Canada, Stéphane Dion, said that there are two problems ahead of Europe - Serbia and Kosovo, and the dispute between Macedonia and Greece over the name. Regarding the capacity to promote democracy, Dion said nationalism is used as a way to consolidate the power of autocrats. "They use it to weaken independent judiciary, pluralism, media freedom ... Democracy and its pillars are endangered by nationalism," Dion said.
Momčilo Radulović, President of European Movement in Montenegro, believes that French President Emmanuel Macron is a dark cloud over our horizon, referring to his statement in Sofia that there will be no enlargements before 2025. Speaking of Russian influence, Radulović said that 25 % of the public remains in love with Russia, which creates issues in national pride. He believes it is very difficult to find positive examples of Russia's influence on both politics and the economy.
Radoslaw Sikorski, Senior Fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard, said that Macron's statement regarding the Balkans is a serious stance, not only his, but a widespread opinion in the Western Europe. The EU, he argues, will not receive any new member that could go backwards. Former Slovenian Defence Minister Roman Jakič thinks that the problem is that populism is being increased by those who oppose the EU enlargement. He points out that Slovenia's position is that the Western Balkans should be integrated as soon as possible, and perceive it from the geopolitical point of view, not merely as meeting of criteria.
PANEL III: “HAS U.S. FOREIGN POLICY SHIFTED UNDER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION?”
U.S. President Donald Tramp has no broader picture of foreign policy, instead, his policy is based on instincts. Speaking about the stance of Serbia towards the East and the West, former Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Šutanovac said that the Serbs are divided. He said that Serbia is not ready to become NATO member as fast as other countries in the region.
Michal Baranowski, Director of the Warsaw Office of the German Marshall Fund, said that the pessimism regarding Tramp is real, saying that the Tramp administration is not like him, not even America.
"The fact is that it would be a good thing to be a strong security actor and to have a good ally in America, but we must look at America from that perspective. We may not like what Tramp represents, but it's even worse when we look at what will be the consequences of his reign, which is undermining of his alliances, and NATO and the EU are one of those," Baranowski said.
Senior Director of Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Michael Carpenter, believes that Tramp has no broader picture of foreign policy, instead, his policy is based on instincts. All this, he says, is not good for human rights and democracy. Carpenter said that Serbia's relations with Russia are acceptable, but it is bad when combined with the Kremlin's aggressive policy.
Advisor in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Selmo Cikotić, says that the United States should think about an alternative for its own benefit. In his words, NATO is the only effective concept. "Whenever there is a problem, only NATO can fix it," he stressed.