The annual Balkans Summit hosted by Friends of Europe on 5 December identified many of the key challenges facing the Western Balkan countries as the European Union prepares to move towards EU membership negotiations with them.
The challenges include driving forward the peace and reconciliation process after the major conflicts in the region in the 1990s and early 2000s, tackling corruption and carrying out justice reforms.
Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama highlighted the EU’s key role in driving forward justice reforms and in terms of peace and reconciliation.
“Without the EU, we wouldn’t have what we have in the Balkans in terms of the peace and reconciliation process,” he said. Looking ahead, he described the region’s view: “Our EU dream is to be part of the family with clear rules where everyone respects the rules and the rule of law. It is about having states with strong institutions”.
“The real potential here lies in integration into the EU’s Internal Market but it is also about tackling issues relating to the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and fighting corruption,” said Christian Danielsson, European Commission Director-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations. “A positive here is that I see a big commitment among leaders and in society to move in this direction. It will be painful but will deliver results.”
Commenting on the challenge of the ‘brain drain’ of young people, Michele Giacomelli, Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Process in Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that “Young people go where the best opportunities are. So it is about leadership and creating the best opportunities in your country”.
Erna Šoševic, who has set up a platform where business can advertise their services, pointed out the governments’ need to realise the importance of human minds as natural resource. “They need to invest in cultivating entrepreneurship. I’m sure that if they do we can become a vibrant economy,” she said.
During the summit, youth representatives from the region gave their insights and recommendations on youth issues.
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