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Balkan Dialogues

Program description

Balkan Dialogues are a project of the EastWest Institute implemented in partnership with the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence and with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, which seeks to convene a series of high-level, discreet dialogues between experts from the European Union, the United States, Russia and China, as well as select participants representing the WB6 states.  The principal  goal of the Balkan Dialogues is to increase and deepen understanding and build trust between representatives of varying geopolitical interests present in the region today, and with nations of the Balkans, by providing a platform for discussion of those areas where competing interests or strategies could collide, and determining ways to mitigate and defuse tensions arising from this reality. 

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Program description

The first in a series of Balkan Dialogues took place in Belgrade, on 28 and 29 March 2019. For the first time we managed to gather in Belgrade a very prominent group of more than seventy participants who are very experienced in the field of foreign policy. The event, which gathered names such as Wolfgang Ischinger, Cameron Munter, Sergey Utkin, Ivan Krastev, Frank Wisner, Sabine Stoehr, Pierre Mirel, Dimitar Bechev, Kai Eide, Erhard Busek, Angelina Eichorst and Ivan Vejvoda, was a long-time expected event, which tackled the most important foreign policy issues in the Western Balkans region. The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, internal situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the success story of the Prespa Agreement in North Macedonia were the topics of the discussion.  

It was a great success to have such names around the table and to give them the opportunity to exchange ideas and opinions about the situation in the region. What is more important this was not a pure round table, we secured the presence of the President of Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, who had a keynote speech at the beginning offering the participants his thoughts about the current political situation in the region. He was also able to hear what each of the participants had to say about the topic with many of them giving their thoughts on the President’s position. 

Second round table of the Balkan Dialogues took place in Berlin on 5 and 6 December 2019. The biggest success story of the Balkan Dialogues in Berlin is the first meeting of the election winner and in the meantime Prime 

Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti and the Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija of the Serbian government Marko Djurić. Although both officials in the past had very strong statements against each other they managed to meet and have a meaningful dialogue which showed that dialogue filled with arguments can be a way to continue the negotiations between Belgrade and Priština. We also succeeded to bring to the same table Albin Kurti and the President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci who is one of Kurti’s biggest political rivals in Kosovo.  

Also, a very big success for us – a civil society organization from Belgrade is to have organized a high – level event in Berlin which gathered around eighty people from all over the world among who we had two presidents – Kosovo and North Macedonia, couple of ministers and a huge number of state secretaries, assistant ministers and ambassadors. 

The Balkan Dialogues had its session at the Munich Security Conference on 14 February 2020. This round table dedicated to the security of the Balkans gathered heads of state of five Western Balkans countries and the high-level diplomats of the USA and EU member states. 

The third edition of the Balkan Dialogues was organized due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in the online format on 1 July 2020. Restart of the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, political issues that follow this highly complexed process, economic cooperation in the region, as well as the necessity of unified transatlantic approach to achievement of comprehensive agreement between the two societies were the topics for discussion for (among others): Nathalie Tocci, Special Advisor to EU High Representative and Vice President of the  European Commission, Presidents of Serbian and Kosovo Chambers of Commerce Marko Čadež and Berat RukiqiIvan Krastev, Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies from Sofia, Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Miroslav Lajčak, Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other regional issues in the Western Balkans, European Union and Matthew Palmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary from US State Department.

During the August 2020 we organized a series of small expert round tables which were addressing four distinctive issues within the context of comprehensive agreement: (1) Status of religious objects and cultural heritage of the Serb community; (2) Association of Serb-majority Municipalities; (3) Economy, property, and energy and (4) The “end game”: Kosovo and Serbia in the light of comprehensive agreement. The outcome of these meetings was a policy report whose findings were presented in online format on 12 October 2020.  

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