13 April 2022
While war is raging in Ukraine, EU enlargement & the integration of the Western Balkans becomes critical in political debate.
While Europe and its allies from across the Atlantic have been facing unprecedented new security challenges, the EU integration of the Western Balkans has become an imminent imperative in view of securing Europe’s safe and prosperous future.
The EU needs a clear message for the European future of the Western Balkans. Building stable connectivity among these states in critical areas such as infrastructure, technology, digitisation, and overall security is the solution to handling inevitable emergencies and developing resilience to emerging risks and threats. Unswerving political will for reform, cooperation, and regional dialogue is required to move towards the ultimate goal – Europe united, whole, and free.
In light of this resurgence in debate, the European Liberal Forum supported by the ALDE Party and the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria invite you to “The EU Meets the Balkans” forum taking place 26 April, in Sofia, Bulgaria and online via Zoom. This high-level conference will bring together EU leaders, foreign ministers, policy-makers, tech leaders, journalists, entrepreneurs and youth representatives to discuss the next steps towards enhanced regional cooperation and EU integration. The main theme of the event this year is “The Ukraine Lesson: EU Enlargement as Antidote to War”. Within these crucial conversations, we will discuss the impact of the Russia – Ukraine war, the benefits of integration and the costs of failure, as well as, NATO – EU cooperation and the threat of disinformation in times of crisis.
To open the conference, we will hear from Daniel Kaddik, ELF Executive Director, as well as MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Co-President of ALDE Party, who recently returned from Ukraine.
We will then open the floor to a keynote panel of high-level decision-makers including, Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament and Teodora Genchovska, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Following this, we will hear the first of two conversation rounds, ‘The Cost of Non-Integration’, with Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement and Federica Mogherini, former HR/VP.
The discussion will then open up to a larger panel to analyse ‘The benefits of integration’, featuring speakers from several Balkan states including, Olta Xhaçka, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Albania and Donika Gervalla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Kosovo.
The second conversation will be on ‘The EU after the Ukraine War’, moderated by journalist Boyko Vasilev and featuring the voices of Miroslav Lajcak, EU Special Envoy to the Western Balkans and Majlinda Bregu, Secretary General Regional Cooperation Council.
We will take a closer look at ‘NATO and EU Cooperation‘ during the second big panel of the Forum, featuring Lord George Robertson, Former Secretary General of NATO and Sir Stuart Peach, UK Special Envoy to the Western Balkans.
The discussion will then address growing issues surrounding, ‘Disinformation in Times of Crisis’, with Vice admiral Mitko Petev, Bulgarian Military Representative to NATO and Peter Horrocks, Former Director of BBC World Service Group.
Finally, we will have a panel on a ‘New EU perspective for Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership Countries’, with insights from Sabina Ćudić, Member of Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Elene Khoshtaria, Member of Parliament of Georgia.
For more information on the Western Balkans, check out our previous work on the topic including the EU Mentorship podcast, discussing the EU integration and our publication with Boris Divkovic Foundation, European Voices in the Western Balkans: A Liberal Perspective on Enlargement of the European Union.