“EU Foreign Policy and the Western Balkans: Reengagement as a strategic choice” workshop and conference in Vienna on 4th December 2015.
The Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, European Stability Initiative, the EU Institute for Security Studies, together with the European Fund for the Balkans, co-organized the “EU Foreign Policy and the Western Balkans: Reengagement as a strategic choice” workshop and conference in Vienna on 4th December 2015.
This event was part of the series of outreach and consultation events, which are included in the strategic review with a view to feeding into the new EU Global Strategy. This series began with the EUISS’ Annual Conference (early October 2015) and will end with the next EUISS Annual Conference (April 2016).
Hedvig Morvai, the Executive Director of the European Fund for the Balkans was the chair of the closed round-table expert workshop “EU Accession: drivers, hurdles and prospects”, which gathered the experts like Florian Bieber (Professor & Director, Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz, Graz), Milica Delevic ( Deputy Secretary General, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, London), Gerald Knaus (ESI Chairman), Stefan Lehne (Visiting scholar, Carnegie Europe, Brussels), Eduard Auer (Head of Division ‘Western Balkans’, European External Action Service, Brussels).
Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Federal Minister for European and International Affairs, opened the conference “EU foreign policy and the Western Balkans: a strategic approach” by emphasizing the special importance of the Western Balkans for Austria and the European Union:
“Only if the EU is perceived as a reliable partner in its immediate neighborhood, than its global success can be assured. There will be many challenges, such as the current refugee crisis, which are linked directly with the countries of the Western Balkans. A credible European perspective for the Western Balkans is a greater reform mobilization, since their future is important for the stability of the region and the European Union. New EU global strategy must put the Balkans EU enlargement in the focus. EU definitely needs the Western Balkans for the challenges of the future”- said Kurz in his opening speech.
He also stressed out that the EU should primarily provide the answers of three important questions: “How can the enlargement process be made more dynamic? How can the general public be convinced of its importance? And how can EU support the countries of the Western Balkans in a joint management of refugee crisis?
The answers to these and other questions will form the basis of the Austrian contribution to the new global strategy, which the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, is going to present it in front of the EU Leaders in June 2016th.
EU needs the Western Balkans for the challenges of the future. New EU global strategy must put on EU enlargement in the Balkans Focus
The event was attended by around 160 senior Austrian civil servants and diplomats, think tankers and other foreign experts.
Check the video from the conference: video