Background and objectives
Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG) was established in 2013 as a co-operation initiative of the European Fund for the Balkans (EFB) and Centre for the South-eastern European Studies of the University of Graz, with an aim to assist in the transition of the Balkans from the stage of unconsolidated democracies and weak economies to the stage of EU accession.
The BiEPAG analyzes and debates the existing mechanisms and political skills of the EU and the region to successfully bring to an end the project of Europeanization of the Balkans as promised at the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003. The Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG) is conceptualized as a core group of policy analysts that flexibly and openly engages with other analysts and seeks outside advice in order to form a core node for policy advice and debate in the Western Balkans.
BiEPAG is composed by prominent policy researchers from the Western Balkans and wider Europe that have already established themselves for their knowledge and understanding of the Western Balkans and the processes that shape the region. The work of this group greatly benefits by inclusion of new research and analytical methodology offered by social and humanities academia, at the same time holding on to the advantage of preserving the promotional empirical gathering skills of the senior researchers, intellectuals and journalists.
Therefore, the BiEPAG provides the space for in-depth discussions for an interdisciplinary group of researchers with and expanded group of civil society activists, analysts, intellectuals and scholars from all parts of the region and the EU, beyond the usual format of a workshop or a conference. The group assesses conventional and alternative models of development of the region and its relations with the European Union, reconsiders recent and current policies of the European institutions, member states and the governments in the region, their strategies, goals and indicators, and thus draws conclusions for future strategies of the European Fund for the Balkans and its programmes together with the specific policy recommendations for stakeholders involved in the process.
The BiEPAG methods include dissemination of analysis-based policy recommendations, and promotion of public debate on the issues it focuses on – such as rule of law, freedom of media, enlargement fatigue and post-crisis economies of the Western Balkans – through its BiEPAG blog, public discussions, and high-level brainstorming meetings. The issues are studied and the measures are proposed regarding what the countries of the region can do to accelerate reforms and to address the enlargement impasse inside the EU.
The goal of the Group is to promote the integration of the Western Balkans in the EU, and to contribute to the consolidation of democracy in the region, through the facilitation of evidence-based policy dialogue. BiEPAG is envisioned as a vehicle to help bridge the distance between different political and developmental stakeholders of, on one side, the individual countries of the Western Balkans, and on the other, the European Union institutions and the governments of the member states.