“The spirit of our endeavour is, To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”
Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, President
In 2020 two important anniversaries will mark the state of play in all Balkan capitals: a quarter of century ago the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed (ending the long cycle of the wars of Yugoslav dissolution) and 16 years ago EUFOR Operation Althea was launched in Bosnia-Herzegovina, relaying the previous NATO-led SFOR (Stabilization Force).
In 2003 the European Union had officially opened accession prospects to the Western Balkans in the Thessaloniki Summit and in 2004 for the first (and only time) the Berlin plus mechanism was started between NATO and the EU, putting specified NATO assets at EU disposal for jointly agreed operations.
Despite recent unpleasant setbacks, the combined effort of Europe and NATO has produced remarkable results. Since 2009, three countries became NATO members (Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and soon North Macedonia). Two Balkan countries, Slovenia and Croatia, joined the EU respectively in 2007 and 2013). Further two countries (Serbia and Montenegro) have opened negotiations with the EU since 2011. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo remain two of the most complex issues in the agenda, but one should recognize that, after Dayton, war ravages have been quietly healed and military deployment drastically reduced from a full field army to a brigade between both countries (approx. 4.100 soldiers). Compared to the Balkans in the last two centuries, this is an unprecedented positive situation.
That said, one cannot overlook that: democracy is still very fragile and has experienced also some significant erosion in some countries; that security is jeopardised by intertwined internal (organised crime, corruption, economic and environmental unsustainability, possible terrorism) and external risks (hostile foreign political and economic influence, manipulation of electoral and media flows, continued global economic slowdown etc.). There is still a serious job to be finished on the background of increasingly impatient populations and of local political elites who, being able to chart their own course, know that inclusion is a vital objective, also because they feel the pressure of external influences, but at the same time exploit international assistance for political and social rent positions.
The conference intends to:
• define the lessons learned from the peace agreement and the EU-NATO collaboration in the area;
• explore political possibilities to break the stalemate while proposing practical activities aimed at minimising the negative impact of another delay;
• highlight the threats to regional stability posed by organised crime, illegal trafficking and terrorism;
• consider the issue of external influences by non-regional actors, like China, the Gulf countries and Russia, while taking into account the special role played by Turkey as a NATO ally;
• anticipate and underline relevant developments in the regional civil societies.
In the first working day, three panels are foreseen. The first will use the historical experience available to see how, on the ground and at political level, the collaboration between EU and NATO has worked or not.
The second panel will see how from a European perspective the enlargement dynamic can be further supported both minimising socio-political backlash at local level, dynamizing political processes among regional actors and overcoming residual objections to new enlargement candidates.
The third has the task of drawing the attention on less visible, but very concrete threats to regional stability represented by organised crime and illegal trafficking, entailing and reinforcing an entrenched corruption. Terrorism is also a lingering risk that cannot be underestimated.
During the second working day, the conference will feature one panel and one round table. The panel will try to give, beyond media exaggerations, a more operational picture of external influences by non-regional actors, like China, the Gulf countries and Russia.
Finally, the round table of regional civil society protagonists will try to explore the social evolution scenarios in the countries and the region.
26 maggio 2020
Rome – Piazza mazzini 56