Reflection Forum Initiative

“Encouraging a European dialogue amongst think tanks and academic institutions on the Western Balkans.”

The Western Balkans Reflection Forum initiative was launched in 2015 in order to advance a strategic, inclusive and policy-oriented reflection on the relations between the EU, its member states and the countries of the Western Balkans. It builds on an extensive network of EU and non-EU experts, academic researchers and think-tankers joining efforts across wider Europe in support of regional cooperation, democratic transformation and comprehensive security in South Eastern Europe and beyond. The Western Balkans Reflection Forum initiative operates at the interface between universities, think tanks and national and European administrations (foreign ministries, EU institutions, etc.), while engaging with citizens.

After the Reflection Forums of Paris (2016), Trieste (2017), Brussels (2018), Zagreb (2019) and the yearly series of conferences which took place across EU and non-EU Europe (with events organised in Belgrade, Berlin, Ljubljana, Podgorica, Pristina, Rome, Sarajevo, Skopje, Tirana, Vienna, etc…), the emphasis will be put in 2019-2021 on supporting the inclusion and participation of Western Balkans citizens in the debate on the future of Europe.

Context of the new series of workshop-debates

In the past ten years, the European Union (EU) has peu ou prou faced a long list of serious challenges, both internal and external: the international and European debt crisis, the outbreak of war in its neighbourhoods, the erosion of its transformative power, the refugee and migration crisis, the rise of Euroscepticism, the British vote to exit the EU, the election of Donald Trump, the rise of China’s economic diplomacy, the return of Russia on the European stage, etc…

Understandingly, the need to swiftly react to a changing environment, to improvise contingency plans and mitigate tensions among the member states has strained the advancement of a more robust strategic vision. While a new reflection on the future of Europe has been initiated with publication of the EU’s White Paper on the Future of Europe in March 2017, followed by President Macron’s speeches in Athens, La Sorbonne, Strasbourg and Aix-la-Chapelle, much remains to be done to rediscover the reasons underlying the European integration process in the first place, rejuvenate the European project and make it again a higher source of inspiration for the citizens of Europe.

There could not be better timing for this reflection to be intensified. The future budget of the EU (MFF 2021-2027) is being finalised; European elections have taken place in 2019; top positions are redistributed in EU institutions accordingly; the Sibiu Summit has followed upon the 2017 White Paper on the Future of Europe; and further challenges, both internal and external, will continue to remain high on the agenda of the EU (Brexit, Euroscepticism, external powers’ (re)engagement in the EU’s closest neighbourhoods, etc.).

Objectives of the new series of workshop-debates

The Western Balkans should participate in, and contribute to, this reflection on the future of Europe. This reflection, after all, is about the Union they strive for joining. But beyond the need to think their future in the same light as the future of the EU, their participation in this reflection is important to build a shared sense of belonging across the region and beyond; to increase the joint ownership of the European integration project and give Western Balkans citizens the opportunity to mobilise and engage in discussions that transcend ethnonational lines. This inclusion in discussions that are broader than the those dominating WB national politics and EU enlargement policy frameworks is key to anchor the community of purpose linking the EU and the WB. It should also be made explicit as such within the EU as well.

That will be the aim of this new series of workshop & discussions, organised in the framework of the Western Balkans Reflection Forum initiative and in support of the Berlin Process. A series of out-reach events will be organised in the capitals of the WB6 and a series of in-reach events will be organised in the capitals of key EU member states in order to stimulate interactive discussions and transnational exchanges of views across the region and Europe on topics that are of essential significance for the future of the EU and the WB alike. They will rely on the existing network of partners established since 2015 through the WB Reflection Forum initiative, with the addition of universities and other partners.

Discussion axes

The challenges undermining Western Balkans’ transformation today are in many respects comparable to those faced by the EU. The growing socio-economic disparities, demographic decline, erosion of democratic values, rise of populism, lack of solidarity, persistence of bilateral tensions, rising insecurity and geopolitical interferences are by no means peculiarities affecting the countries of the region alone. They are as relevant to the WB as they are to the EU and should therefore be included in the set of discussions advanced in the framework of the enlargement policy.

This series of workshop & discussions will accordingly explore the potential of looking at the Western Balkans as “a region (already) in Europe”, i.e. as a region which can contribute to intellectual debates on the future of Europe rather than a region which should accommodate EU visions and aspirations. It will, to that end, foster discussions on a range of topics that relate more to European governance in general than Western Balkans politics specifically and look at enlargement as a cutting-crossing field of enquiry rather an all-set model of transformation. The debates will for instance focus on the following topics:

  • “Widening versus deepening” the European Union
  • Education, Mobility and European identity
  • The social dimension of Europe
  • Market integration and globalisation challenges
  • Europe in the world, world powers in Europe
  • Public Investments, Industrial Policy and R&D
  • Energy, Environment protection and Climate Change
  • Populism and democracy

LATEST NEWS

The Western Balkans in the European Union: Perspectives of a region in Europe?

Reflection Forum on the run-up to the Summit of Trieste on the Western Balkans Second Reflection Forum took place in Trieste, Italy between 26th and 27th of June and convened a wide range of different experts working in national and European administrations and...
Read More

The Western Balkans in the European Union: Perspectives of a region in Europe?

Reflection Forum on the run-up to the Summit of Trieste on the Western Balkans will convene the community of European experts working on Western Balkans’ EU integration to reflect on the challenges bedevilling the EU’s enlargement policy, once deemed the EU’s most...
Read More

Watch Online: Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the EU, round table in Ljubljana

CEP together with the leading EU think-tanks organised a round table “Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union” 28 March in Ljubljana, following a preparatory meeting for the Reflection Forum event to be held in Trieste 26-27 June 2017. The round...
Read More

Round Table: Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the EU

CEP together with the leading EU think-tanks organised a round table “Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union” 28 March in Ljubljana, following a preparatory meeting for the Reflection Forum event to be held in Trieste 26-27 June 2017. Round table...
Read More

From Rome to Trieste: Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union

CEP kindly invites you to a round table discussion "Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union", organised by CEP in cooperation with the leading EU think tanks. In the wake of the centenary of First World War in 2014, the Federal Chancellor of Germany...
Read More

Reflection Forum Initiative past activities

“Encouraging a European dialogue amongst think tanks and academic institutions on the Western Balkans.”

 

In 2014, in the wake of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, initiated an intergovernmental process with the countries of the Western Balkans (the so-called Berlin Process). Its aim is to improve cooperation throughout the region, put “fundamentals first”, and thereby reinvigorate European integration. The first conference, organised in Berlin, was followed by a second one in Vienna in 2015 and a third one in Paris in 2016. A fourth conference will be convened by Italy in 2017, before the process expectedly ends one year later, in 2018, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.

In order to encourage a European dialogue amongst think tanks and academic institutions on the Western Balkans and their European perspective, the CIFE, CFA, IAI and IFRI, together with other institutions, including CEP, launched in 2015 an initiative that culminated with the organisation of a “reflection forum” on the Western Balkans in May 2016 in Paris. This first reflection forum addressed some of the topical challenges the EU and Western Balkan countries face, from socio-economic convergence or migration security to democratisation or geopolitics.

The process of reflection and think tank mobilisation continues throughout 2017 with a high-level reflection conference, organised under the patronage of the Italian MFA in June 2017, in the run-up to the intergovernmental conference on the Western Balkans hosted by Italy in July 2017.

LATEST NEWS

The Western Balkans in the European Union: Perspectives of a region in Europe?

Reflection Forum on the run-up to the Summit of Trieste on the Western Balkans Second Reflection Forum took place in Trieste, Italy between 26th and 27th of June and convened a wide range of different experts working in national and European administrations and...
Read More

The Western Balkans in the European Union: Perspectives of a region in Europe?

Reflection Forum on the run-up to the Summit of Trieste on the Western Balkans will convene the community of European experts working on Western Balkans’ EU integration to reflect on the challenges bedevilling the EU’s enlargement policy, once deemed the EU’s most...
Read More

Watch Online: Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the EU, round table in Ljubljana

CEP together with the leading EU think-tanks organised a round table “Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union” 28 March in Ljubljana, following a preparatory meeting for the Reflection Forum event to be held in Trieste 26-27 June 2017. The round...
Read More

Round Table: Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the EU

CEP together with the leading EU think-tanks organised a round table “Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union” 28 March in Ljubljana, following a preparatory meeting for the Reflection Forum event to be held in Trieste 26-27 June 2017. Round table...
Read More

From Rome to Trieste: Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union

CEP kindly invites you to a round table discussion "Perspectives for the Western Balkans in the European Union", organised by CEP in cooperation with the leading EU think tanks. In the wake of the centenary of First World War in 2014, the Federal Chancellor of Germany...
Read More

IN COOPERATION WITH

Reflection forum is organised and supported by Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), Centre international de formation européenne (CIFE), Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (CFA), French Institute for International Relations (Ifri), Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), Austrian Institute for International Politics (Oiip), European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory (BiEPAG), Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso (OBC), Central European Initiative (CEI), Regione Autonoma Friuli Venezia Giulia, MIB Trieste School of Management, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, Federal Ministry for European, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Friedrich-Ebert Foundation (FES), and Centre for European Perspective (CEP).