Panel I – Security Challenges for the Balkans Region and the European Stability
 
Commencing the discussion chaired by Prof. Dan Dungaciu, the first topic dealt with the European vocation of the Western Balkans, taking into consideration the Romanian and Serbian perspective. Thus, the first speaker – H. E. Teodor Melescanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania – emphasized that the EU is not simply about conditionalities, formalism and policies. Rather – given the upcoming Romanian presidency of the Council – the Romanian approach is pragmatic, but also keen on obtaining a consensus able to move forward the enlargement agenda in the Western Balkans. In this regard, the transformative effects of EU membership are to be illustrated by the Romanian experience of accession, a lesson that can well serve the other Balkan countries.
On the other hand, H. E. Ivica Dacic, Minister of Foreign Affairs-Serbia, showed that the issues are complex in the Balkans regarding EU integration. Matters of history and larger strategy further complicate the debate, both internally and at the level of the international community. Thus, the unresolved Kosovo issue is of utmost importance for Serbia, requiring a larger flexibility on behalf of European partners. Nonetheless, Serbia is determined on its EU path, granted that it takes into account its interests and political necessities.

Panel II – EU Strategy for the Balkans Region. Austrian EU & Romanian EU Presidency. 

In the second Panel of the conference, Mr. Klaus Wölfer – Director of the Southeastern Europe/Western Balkans Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Austria – approached the status of the Austrian presidency of the Council in regard to the Western Balkans, showing that Austria and its 27 EU partners are committed to the Balkans in the enlargement process. Nonetheless, the EU is meant to also encourage the Balkan connectivity at a regional level, among the constituent countries which are in need of cooperating even before joining the Union. In addition, it was shown how security and prosperity in the Balkan area are crucial interests for the EU, while also emphasizing the need for a better public communication that presents citizens how EU help has so far benefited these countries and how it will continue to do so in the future.

At the same time, Mr. Ștefan Tinca – Political General Director, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania – discussed the priorities of the future Romanian presidency of the Council. Thus, the commitment towards the Balkans is to be upheld, hoping for progress in the field of enlargement for the countries already firmly on this path, while not leaving any other one to feel excluded.

Panel III – Cyberspace: The New Battlefield of the Next Wars.

The third Panel of the conference dealt with issues of cyber-security, gathering a well-chosen array of speakers from NATO, the intelligence community, academia and the private sector. In this context, it was shown how NATO’s approach toward cyber-threats evolved over time and how it got to treating such challenges in a similar manner to conventional operational matters.

Moreover, the cooperation between the Alliance and key national partners (as well as the EU) has been presented, showing how such threats are addressed at all levels and how private sector actors are also involved in providing support in this area. On the other hand, it was emphasized how cyber-resilience can be enhanced by continuous education in this field, aimed both at ordinary citizens, business operators and governmental institutions. While addressing APTs stemming from state-sponsored actors, cyber-criminals and ideologically-motivated hackers, the need for new policies emerged requiring an out of the box paradigmatic approach.

Panel IV –  The Balkans Region: Old & New Challenges (Part I)

The forth panel of the conference addressed the matter of old and new challenges in the Balkan area. In this regard, ambassadors Victor Jackovich and Sergiu Celac discussed about the dynamics of the Balkans and how this area arrived at such complicated geo-strategic position. More precisely, the presentations centered around the presence of NATO and the EU in the region after the dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation, stressing how Romania can play the role of a model for aspirant Balkan countries, but also that of the bulwark of Euro-Atlantic values. In addition, the increased presence of Russia was emphasized, showing the renewed interest of Moscow for a shift of paradigm when dealing with the Balkans, following its perceived failures in mustering sufficient support for its stance in the region.

Panel V –  The Balkans Region: Old & New Challenges (Part II) 

The last panel of the conference gathered speakers from Romania and Turkey, representing the viewpoints of the UN, academia and think-tanks. The discussions dealt with the mission – and impact – of the United Nations in the Balkans, whose long-term presence has generated some of the most enduring transformations. Moreover, while dealing with Turkey’s larger strategic dilemmas, it was shown how Ankara engages with the area in accordance with the wider geopolitical challenges it faces, both in Europe and in the Middle East. As a final point, China’s rise in the internal dynamics of the Western Balkans was analyzed, showing how far – and how deep – its economic influence runs and how this commercial footprint is to be translated into a political vocabulary. Lastly, China’s entry as a new player was emphasized as a different type of challenge, one that needs a new approach on behalf of the EU, calibrated so as to obtain the desired governance results and channel the Chinese capital in such a way that does not impede on the Union’s Balkan policy.

Security Challenges in the Balkans – video part 1

Security Challenges in the Balkans – video part 2