Western Balkans Conference – “The Future of Integration” takes place October 7-8 in Rome

Western Balkans Conference – “The Future of Integration” takes place October 7-8 in Rome


By Spiros Sideris – Rome

The Western Balkans Conference themed “The Future of Integration”, which is organized by the NATO Defense College Foundation in cooperation with the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Balkan Trust for Democracy, has started its works in Rome October 7.

“Western Balkans should not be chatacterised by opinion makers just by the two words ‘enlargement’ and ‘fatigue’, implying that in this region the only possible strategy is to wait until problems both within the EU and the countries of the area, fade away. Facts are rather different”, said Matteo Tacconi – scientific asvisor, to add that “the NATO Defence College Foundation intends, in due time and with the appropriate collaborations, to pursue its activity in the Balkans area also through the creation of a specialists’ network, tailored to the current and future policy needs”.

The two day conference opened its works yesterday afternoon with Zoran Jolevski, Minister of Defence of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, making the opening speech. Amb. Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, President, NATO Defense College Foundation, and Amb. Luigi Mattiolo, DG European Union, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also made welcome remarks.

The first of two Sessions of the first day was “Regional Cooperation: Another Step Forward”, which referred to role of security and of the economy in shaping the post-war landscape, as well as perspectives for a genuine political dialogue towards European integration.

The Session was chaired by Vincenzo Nigro, Journalist, La Repubblica, with key speakers: Solomon Passy, President, Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, Petar Mihatov, Head of Sector for International Defense Cooperation and Security – Ministry of Defense, Andrei Tarnea, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Romania, and Fernando Gentilini, Director for Western Europe, Western Balkans and Turkey, European External Action Service.

The second Session, chaired by Gordana Delic, Director, Balkan Trust for Democracy, was on “The Serbia-Kosovo deal: A turning Point?”, which revolved around the role of EU in the resolution of national issues in the region. Key speakers were Anton Bebler, President, Euro-Atlantic Council of Slovenia, Jelena Milic, Director, Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies, Denis Hadzović, Secretary General, Center for Security Studies, Florian Qehaja, Executive Director, Kosovar Centre for Security Studies.

Vladimir Radulović, State Secretary for Political Affairs, Republic of Montenegro, will open the second day of the conference, with Session 3 – NATO and Europe: The State of the Integration – being first on the agenda. Some of the topics under discussion in this Session, chaired by Stefano Silvestri, Former President of the Istituto Affari Internazional, will include:

– The European process of enlargement after Croatia’s accession, looking at the future and at the timetables.

– The candidates: positive and negative aspects. NATO’s view on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,

– Montenegro and others. The evolving Turkish role in the region.

Key speakers will be Christophe Solioz, Political Analyst, former Secretary General of the Centre for European Integration, Albert Rakipi, Executive Director, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Dusan Fischer, Research Fellow, Slovak Foreign Policy Association, and Sonja Licht, President, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence.

The conference will conclude with Session 4 – Unfinished Business? The Bosnian Initiative – where the transition towards a wider European role in supporting social and political changes in a meaningful way will be discussed. Istvan Gyarmati, President, International Centre for Democratic Transition, will preside over this session, and key speaker will be Goran Svilanovic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Wolfgang Petritsch, President, Austrian Marshall Foundation, Ahmet Evin, Professor, Sabanci University Policy Institute, Srdan Dizdarevic, and President, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs of Italy will make the final remarks.