Conference on the 50th Anniversary and the Future of the Western Balkans

On April 13 2007, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation,  the BiH Directorate for European Integration and the Paneuropean Union of BiH jointly hosted a Conference in Sarajevo entitled “50 Years of the Treaties of Rome and the Future of the Western Balkans”.  It brought together public sector and civil society actors involved in European integration issues in countries throughout the region.

The conference included three table discussions. The first, on “the Western Balkans from the EU point of view”, featured Ms. Doris Pack, Member of the European Parliament and Chairwoman of its Delegation for Relations with the Countries of South-east Europe; Ambassador Dimitris Kourkoulas, Head of Delegation of the European Commission to BiH and Mr. Michael Brand, Member of the German Parliament, as speakers. The subject of the second table was “Regional Cooperation in the Western Balkans” while the third was “Civil society engagement for EU integration”.

Ms. Pack spoke of the “black hole” that the Western Balkans represent in the map of Europe; a hole which must be filled in. She stressed the need for political responsibility, with a fair balance between the distribution of political power and human values, noting that the political structure in BiH place it further away from civil society and it is thus essential to change this system. She added that it is easier to integrate countries into Europe if their political elite have the respect of individuals.

Ambassador Kourkoulas reviewed the successes of the European Union over these 50 years; bringing peace, prosperity and stability to its members. He reminisced on how his country, Greece, has developed since joining the EU, not just as a country but institutionally and as a society. Similar transformations are now being seen in the twelve new Member States. Bulgaria, which was facing huge problems, is now on a good political and economic track and well on its way to becoming a success story. He stressed that the EU has left the door open to the countries of South-east Europe, but expects these countries to fulfill the required conditions. The decision on implementing the necessary reforms is ultimately theirs, and not just to satisfy the EU but to benefit their citizens. Ambassador Kourkoulas reiterated the strong message given by Commissioner Rehn on his recent visit to BiH, regretting the delays in the reform process which will probably delay the signing of the SAA and his statement to the effect that words on the part of BiH politicians on their commitment to reform are not enough, action is needed. BiH is losing ground in the regional and global competition for investment due to such delays.

Mr. Brand expressed that there can be no lasting peace without justice, and that it is time to move on and replace the Dayton agreement with a modern version.