On September 13, 2023, the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) organized the international conference titled: “The EU-accession perspectives of the Western Balkans in light of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine” in cooperation with the Wilfried Martens Center for European Studies and the Hanns-Seidel Stiftung. On behalf of ELIAMEP, the implementing actor of the conference was the South-East Europe Programme under Dr. Ioannis Armakolas.

The event was part of the network of actions that ELIAMEP is developing as co- organizer with the Open Society Foundations and the Cooperation and Development Institute (CDI) within this year’s Civil Society and Think-Tank Forum (CSF), which will take place on October 14-15, in Tirana. CSF is taking place in the framework of the Berlin Process, the EU-supported intergovernmental initiative to promote the European perspectives of the Western Balkans.

In the light of the recent geopolitical changes and renewed interest in the issue of European security, the conference examined the current situation about the Western Balkan’s EU Accession, 20 years after the Thessaloniki Summit. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine reshaping the EU priorities, the implications for the EU’s security and defense were brought back in the spotlight, national security doctrines such as Germany’s were revised, and Ukraine and Moldova were granted candidate status for EU membership. At the same time and despite the significant progress of some Western Balkan countries in the area of reforms, the path to accession remains uncertain, when Russia is trying to increase its geopolitical footprint in the region. Within this context and in view of the growing interest in the EU’s enlargement process, the conference highlighted issues such as:

– the factors that delay progress in the EU accession process;

– the challenges and prospects of the EU’s enlargement policy;

– the means to revitalize and accelerate the process;

– the ways to strengthen the European perspectives of the societies of the Western Balkans,

– the role of key EU member states like Germany in the enlargement debate and process, the increased influence of third countries and the geopolitical developments affecting the accession process.

The event was opened by the Director General of ELIAMEP, Professor Maria Gavouneli and the Director of the Institute for European and Transatlantic Dialogue of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Mr. Wolf Krug. In his opening remarks, Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis noted that “as the oldest EU member state in the region, it is our duty to guide the Western Balkans on their path to European integration – to the great European family”.

In the total four panels of the conferences – among others – the participants were: Bojan Marichikj (Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Republic of North Macedonia), Miroslav Gačević (Assistant Minister, Department for Political and Economic Criteria in the Process of Accession to the European Union, Republic of Serbia) Jovana Marović, (former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Affairs, Republic of Montenegro) Αlexandre Adam (former Europe advisor to the French President Emmanuel Macron; Member of the French Council of State – Conseil d’Etat, France), Odeta Barbullushi (Advisor to the Prime Minister and National Coordinator for Regional Economic Area, Republic of Albania), Klaus Welle (Chairman, Martens Centre Academic Council; former Secretary-General, European Parliament, Brussels), Christian Mölling (Deputy Director, German Council on Foreign Relations – DGAP and Head of the Center for Security and Defence, Germany) and others.

The next step following the successful completion of the conference is the participation of the South-East Europe Programme of ELIAMEP as the co- organizer of the Civil Society and Think-Tank Forum (CSF), on October 14 and 15, within the framework of Berlin Process Summit in Tirana, Albania.