Public discussion: Stability and Progress in the Western Balkans

On February 1, 2017 in Washington D.C., the International Forum for Democratic Studies and The Europe Program at the National Endowment for Democracy will hold a public discussion, titled “Stability and Progress in the Western Balkans: Threats, Predictions, Solutions.”

The discussion will be attended by director Heartefact Andrej Nosov (Regan Fasel scholarship in NED), a board member Heartefact Goran Miletic (Program Director for the Western Balkans, Civil Rights Defenders) and Jasmin Mujanovic (Consultant for public policy Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation – a section for dialogue of Southeast Europe), with uvodonim comments Carl Gershman (President NED) while the moderator will be Ivana Cvetkovic Bajrović (Senior program administrator NED).

Decade of international presence and investment in peace in the Western Balkans undeniably contributed to a more stable situation and development, but there are serious questions as to the effectiveness of invested resources in terms of building a strong democratic society. 2016 was full of challenges taking into account that the key countries in the region – Bosnia and Hercegoviva, Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia and went through periods of crisis, who, among other things, impact on neighborly relations, which have worsened.

The influence of public institutions remains weak and limited powers that, while corruption and censored the media pose a problem for the whole region. On the other hand, the current government is subject to the influence of foreign countries such as Russia, that their activities create conditions for constant instability in the region.
Fighters for stability and democracy in the Western Balkans are exposed to threats, and two decades after the Dayton Peace Agreement, it appears that the situation tends abolition of the progress made and creates an atmosphere similar to that and was the nineties.

The discussion will be highlighted new threats to stability and prosperity in the Western Balkans, as well as opportunities and challenges, with suggestions of concrete steps to be taken in order to further development of democracy in this territory.

Public discussions will be held on February 1, 2017 at 10 am (16 pm GMT + 1), and all interested parties will be available for live monitoring on the following link: http://www.ned.org/events/stability-and-progress -in-the-western-balkans-threats-predictions-solutions /

The discussion will feature Heartefact Fund director Andrej Nosov (Reagan-Fascell Fellow, National Endowment for Democracy), Heartefact board member Goran Miletić (Program Director for the Western Balkans, Civil Rights Defenders), and Jasmin Mujanović (Policy Consultant, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung – Dialogue Southeast Europe), and will be moderated by Ivana Cvetković Bajrović (Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for Democracy). Introductory remarks will be made by Carl Gershman (President, National Endowment for Democracy).

The speakers will discuss the decades of international presence and investment in promoting stability and progress in the Western Balkans, which seem to have produced some positive results. But the full democratic consolidation of most former Yugoslav countries seems like an elusive goal. Political institutions remain weak and dominated by nationalist and populist strongmen who are polarizing societies. Endemic corruption, captured media, and public frustration plague transitions across the region.

These challenges also make regional governments vulnerable to malign foreign influences. Russia, which has been expanding its geopolitical influence across the Balkans and neighboring regions, has already begun to exploit these vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, foreign fighter recruitment remains a threat in the region. Scores of veteran fighters have returned home to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, raising even greater security and radicalization risks, not just to these fragile states, but also to the peace and stability of Europe as a whole. 2016 was particularly challenging with an escalation of domestic crises in key countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, and even Croatia. Neighborly relations have suffered as well. Two decades after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, rhetoric at both the political and grassroots levels increasingly resembles that of the early 1990s.

This event will feature some of the region’s leading practioners and analysts. It will explore new threats to stability and progress in the Western Balkans, assess upcoming challenges and opportunities, and propose ways to move forward.

The discussion will be held on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 10am in Washington.

A livestream of the event will be available at this link: http://www.ned.org/events/stability-and-progress-in-the-western-balkans-threats-predictions-solutions/.