The Western Balkans remain poorly connected in terms of infrastructure, with an atomized energy market, burdened with political instability, which negatively affects the region’s energy security.
There is a lack of clear and enforceable measures regarding the preparedness of the energy systems of the countries of the region to
respond to potential shocks in case of interruption of gas supply or any other energy shock.
External actors, most notably Russia and China, exploit the clientelist approach of political elites in the region thus opposing the implementation of the goals of the Energy Community in the Western Balkan countries.
Foreign Policy Initiative BH and Friedrich Ebert Foundation, organized the presentation of the political analysis “Energy Geopolitics in the Balkans – Geopolitics and European Integration of the Western Balkans” by prof. dr. Seada Turčalo in a somewhat different way due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The presentation was filmed at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Sarajevo in video format of TV show, where the host talked to our panelists who gave their review of the author’s manuscript. The video content that you can watch here will also be distributed to TV stations and other electronic media.
Apart from the author, the presentation was attended by prof. dr. Ešref Kenan Rašidagić from the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Sarajevo, Amer Kapetanović from the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and doc. dr. Klarić Sanela Member of the House of Representatives of the FBiH Parliament who spoke on behalf of Green Council.
The energy sector and energy policies and strategies may be analyzed through different approaches: economic, environmental, geopolitical and other approaches. This analysis will focus on the geopolitical approach. In this approach, countries and actors that could be referred to as unitary or unitary-like actors have a decisive influence in the energy sector. The geopolitical approach to energy issues, or energy geopolitics, is inextricably associated with energy security, which within this approach is the primary goal of any energy policy; unlike the economic or environmental approaches, which favor issues of sustainability, competitiveness, etc.
The geopolitical approach primarily observes the geographical position of a particular country or region from the perspective of the location of energy resources it needs: analyzing their accessibility, the actors that control those resources, their price, existing and alternative transport routes, relations in the regional and global markets, market mechanisms and the regulatory framework that may influence the behavior of actors, availability and management of own energy resources, as well as political decisions and the manner and framework within which they are made.
In the policy development area, PAR Monitor 2019/2020 starts by focusing on the information available to citizens on governmental performance. Evidence shows that citizens of the Western Balkan countries, with the exception of BiH and to a lesser extent North Macedonia, do not have access to basic information about the work of their governments; the level of detail provided in annual governmental work reports is generally substandard to allow proper public scrutiny. Even weaker practices are shown in how understandable and result-oriented these reports are, as well as how regularly the public is informed on the implementation of central planning documents. Continue reading “Governments in the WB still do not provide adequate information on their achievements”
Worrying trends in the limited proactive information made available to citizens of the Western Balkans by their governments, indicated in the baseline PAR Monitor 2017/2018, have shown little change. Although some online information is easily accessible in most of the countries included, limited open data practices and transparency in annual reporting and budgets, as well as limited citizen-friendliness in the presentation of information, are still common. Continue reading “Proactive informing from public authorities is still at a low level in the Western Balkans”
Foreign Policy Initiative BH last month organized a social network campaign “EU and BiH?” which aimed to actualize the European integration process in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the process is rarely mentioned in public space since BiH got the Opinion on the EU membership application.
“EU and BiH?” campaign consisted of promoting 29 video messages on social networks pages/profiles of Foreign Policy Initiative BH’s pages/profiles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in which the public figures and representatives of BiH and EU institutions, diplomatic corps, international organizations, NGOs, academic society and media talked about the European path of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The campaign started with the video of Ambassador Johann Sattler (Head of the EU Delegation and EUSR) on 10th April and was finished on 12th May, with Anida Šabanović, Director of Foreign Policy Initiative BH. Three ambassadors of the EU member states took part in the campaign – Germany, Austria and Sweden. BiH institutions were also represented – by a member of BiH Presidency (Željko Komšić), Foreign Affairs Minister (Bisera Turković), four MPs in the Parliamentary Assembly (Saša Magazinović, Nikola Lovrinović, Šemsudin Mehmedović and Branislav Borenović), Public Administration Reform Office Coordinator (Dragan Ćuzulan) and FBiH Government Office for European Integration Director (Vjekoslav Čamber). We also had video messages from Drahoslav Stefanek – Special Representative for Migrations and Refugees of Council of Europe, Amer Kapetanović from Regional Cooperation Council and Nermin Kujović from Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Adnan Ćerimagić, Faruk Hadžić and Denis Čarkadžić, analysts, also took part in the campaign. Civil society was represented by Leila Bičakčić (CIN), Jasmina Pašalić (FPI BH), Adis Muhović (CPU), Ismail Šehić (BRAVO Foundation) and Rasim Ibrahimagić (Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of BiH). Academic society was represented by Nedžma Džananović Miraščija (University of Sarajevo) and Dženeta Karabegović (University of Salzburg). Representing the media, we had video messages of Brankica Smiljanić (Al Jazeera) and Senad Dorić (HEMA TV). And finally, we also had a video of Amna Popovac, entrepreneuress and activist.
Foreign Policy Initiative BH and Friedrich Ebert Foundation, on Saturday, 25 April 2020 organized an online presentation of political analysis “FOREIGN POLICIES OF THE WB6 – ALIGNMENT WITH THE EU?” by prof. dr. Nedžma Džananović Miraščija.
During the presentation, Nedžma Džananović Miraščija stated that all six Western Balkans countries have very clearly made EU membership one of their foreign policy priorities, and therefore the alignment and approximation obligation does not seem particularly demanding or incompatible with the established national interests in any of these countries. It also appears quite logical to continue building diplomatic and bureaucratic capacities for EU membership, since this is a major prerequisite for accessing the rights and meeting the obligations that EU membership entails. The European Union uses these conditions to test the political and symbolic commitment of these countries; their cooperativeness in terms of coordination and joint action; as well as their willingness to make continuous investment in the development of specific diplomatic and bureaucratic capacities to deal with the broader international context.
The main objective of this analysis was to determine whether, to what extent, and in what way the WB6 countries have been fulfilling this portion of the political criteria, and to identify the factors and actors that influence the greater or lesser degree of the alignment achieved. Alignment with EU foreign policy in specific international circumstances is also a clear indicator of whether the declared foreign policy priorities of the WB6 countries are genuine, while illustrating at the same time the transformative and structural foreign policy power of the EU in this area, in particular in comparison to other actors present in the region in different capacities.
Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Khaldoun Sinno, at the opening said that the EU treats the region differently than the other countries because that see the Wester Balkan countries as part of the EU in future. “However, on that path we have expectations: EU needs to see the motivation from leaders to deliver. There is no doubt that EU is here to help”, concluded Sinno.
At the panel which was held as a part of the conference, Jasmin Hasić, advisor in Ministry of Foreign Affairs BiH and one of the panelists, stated that we need to continue communicating on this matter. “Foreign affairs issues in BiH academically and in practical-institutional terms have somewhat subsided and dialogue is needed to revive them”, concluded Hasić. Adi Ćerimagić of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) said that our positive awareness of change is very strong “The historically important message of a few days ago is that the Western Balkan countries can do a lot together, an example being the letter from the foreign ministers of the countries they sent to the EU. This is one of the positive changes and awareness of joint action.” Senada Šelo-Šabić from the Institute for Development and International Relations (Zagreb, Croatia) stated that we are the creators of our own happiness and life. “Once we have that awareness, then it will be easier to understand and change the world,” Šelo-Šabić concluded.
The presentation was moderated by Hana Sokolović, reporter and host at N1 television. Representatives from other countries also gave their comments: Sena Marić, project manager and senior researcher at the European Policy Centre (CEP) Belgrade, prof. dr. Gordana Djurovic – President of the Montenegrin Pan-European Union and former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of European Integration of Montenegro, Ambassador Andrej Lepavcov, Former Ambassador of Northern Macedonia to the European Union, Ambassador Osman Topcagic, President of the Pan-European Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former BiH Ambassador to the EU and Great Britain, former director of DEI.
The presentation was attended by representatives of civil society organizations, academic community, relevant institutions, resident embassies and missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the media.
The (foreign) political alignment with EU positions in international affairs is not only an obligation entailed by the EU accession process, but it essentially tests the political and practical commitment of The Western Balkan countries to deal with the wider international context. When it comes to EU CFSP compliance, the percentage of Western Balkan countries’ compliance with the High Representative’s declarations and EU Council decisions varies, and comparative analysis shows that the level of compliance does not quite match the status of states in the EU accession process.
In democratic societies, the government operates for the benefit of its citizens and works together with the citizens. One of the values of a democratic order of a country is the transparency of work of its administrative structures, as well as full respect of the inalienable rights of its citizens.
Proactive transparency and free access to information are the basic methods of communication between a state and its citizens. In order to build the citizen’s trust in the administration, the administration needs to be transparent, its work needs to be visible and understandable to the citizens, because in that way the possibility of corruption and abuse of power is reduced, and the citizens are enabled to take active participation in decision making processes.
Since the beginning of April, the Foreign Policy Initiative BH has been campaigning on social networks on how transparently the BiH institutions are informing the public in COVID-19 pandemic era. The published infographics cover relevant state and entity level institutions.
With this campaign, the Foreign Policy Initiative BH wanted to show the citizens that the institutions’ websites exist because of them and that they have the right (but also the obligation) to monitor the work of the institutions as well as the way the public is being informed.
The aim was also to motivate citizens to seek the necessary and verified information from the competent institutions and to find out for themselves whether this is possible and to what extent.
It’s telling that the most important milestones of the EU’s enlargement policy are closely tied to Denmark. In 1993, the “Copenhagen criteria”, which set the conditions for EU aspirants, were defined by the EU Council, then headed by Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (S). In 2002, when Denmark was heading the EU Council again under prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (V), a historic decision was made to expand the Union to 10 new members. Fast forward to autumn 2019, and, in the context of enlargement to the Western Balkans, Denmark was one of the countries that opposed opening accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Denmark, once one of the strongest advocates of EU expansion, now finds itself rather sceptical on the Western Balkans’ enlargement dossier.
Our delegation from six Western Balkan think tanks, each of us representing the civil society in each country, recently visited Denmark and met with several political and non-governmental organizations. As the trusted voice of the civil society from the region, we fully understand the concerns of Danish citizens and politicians about the Western Balkans joining the EU. Our countries are still far from fulfilling the EU membership criteria. But our political leadership needs a strong prospect of EU membership in order to undertake the necessary political reforms and to establish of functioning institutions and rule of law. At the same time, we fear that ignoring and relegating the Western Balkans accession process due to more pressing issues at home is doing harm both to the EU and to the Balkan region itself.
It should not take a lot of political courage to explain to citizens that the opening of accession talks with one candidate country does necessarily mean that the country will eventually join the EU unprepared. Look at the so-called “front-runners” from the region – Montenegro and Serbia: they have been negotiating EU membership for years but have been stuck in the process due to their inabilities to demonstrate a strong reform record on democratic performance and rule of law. The opening of accession talks should be seen – as it really is – only a small step in a long and demanding accession process. In fact, it is the EU and its member states who set the rules and assess the results.
At the same time, moving forward in the process bears immense symbolic importance for a candidate country, to the extent that its political stability can be threatened, as is currently the case in North Macedonia. To overcome the yearlong name dispute with Greece, the country even changed its name to finally embark on its accession talks with the EU. But despite doing its proverbial homework, North Macedonia has been blocked in the process – this time not by Greece but Denmark. That undermines our trust in the promises made by the EU, and makes us wonder if we have been given a chance at all?
These are some examples which show that the current method for accession negotiations is ineffective. On the one hand, the region’s political leaders have few domestic incentives to reform, knowing that the benefits of the EU integration process stretch far beyond their political mandates. On the other hand, the EU is unable to deliver on its promises towards the region. Therefore, the EU Commission has put forward a proposed revision of the accession process, which imposes stricter requirements for democratic, judicial and economic reforms on candidate countries. Denmark should see this as an opportunity not to be missed for making EU enlargement to the Western Balkans a success story, and to avoid possible democratic backsliding post-accession, which we have seen in Hungary and Poland. Our region should suffer from collateral damage of that or any other problem we did not cause.
As citizens of the region determined to make a better future for the next generations, we pledge for a strict and merit-based accession process that would result in a transformation of our countries and societies to respect European values. In our view, for this to happen, three crucial ingredients are needed.
The first is the political courage of the EU member states to acknowledge all the benefits of having the rest of the Balkan region (with a total population smaller than Romania’s) as part of the bloc, as well as the risks associated with continued neglect. Following Brexit, the EU’s expansion to this region would offer new export opportunities for Danish companies. Moreover, the counties of the region are not only geographically, but also historically and culturally part of Europe: for instance, Bosnians are among the best integrated communities in Denmark. Moreover, three countries of the region are NATO members. And both the EU and the Western Balkans are concerned with climate change and intercontinental migration. However, the EU’s fading engagement in the region is already resulting in the stronger presence of other global powers such as China and Russia, a phenomenon expected to further intensify should the EU remain passive.
Secondly, the EU’s stronger political engagement needs to be accompanied by greater support to civil society in the region, the real agents of transformation. The EU should empower and reassure those actors who are interested in strong democratic institutions, freedom of the media, an independent judiciary, and the eradication of widespread corruption and organised crime. Functional democracy is a guarantee of political stability, but in the absence of a credible membership perspective, the region’s strongmen will find that their only chance of staying in power is by nurturing a nationalist and conflict escalating rhetoric.
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have been stuck for years in the process of being granted official candidate status due to statehood issues, which has left their citizens disillusioned about their European perspective.
Finally, the accession process itself needs to be rewarding for political elites. For them to engage in potentially politically costly reforms, they need to receive tangible rewards from the EU upon delivery. Offering access for the region to some areas of EU policy at different stages in the process, as is proposed in the EU Commission’s revised enlargement methodology, would serve as a stabilising factor for political systems in the entire region.
Now is the time to act. If this opportunity is missed, the Western Balkans risk another lost decade marked with new potential instabilities. If skilled and educated young people do not see a European perspective at home, they will take on existing opportunities to migrate and seek better living conditions in the EU themselves. This leaves our homes more prone to populism and dangerous nationalist conflicts, depriving the Western Balkans societies of their long-term economic potential. Conversely, if we increase the membership dialogue and mutual engagement now, we can go a long way in making the entire European continent a safe and sustainable place for living. It is in Denmark’s security, economic and civic interest to invest itself in this dossier and to reap its benefits.
Arbëresha Loxha, Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS), Pristina, Kosovo;
Anida Šabanović, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina;
Dina Bajramspahić, Institut Alternativa (IA), Podgorica, Montenegro;
Sena Marić, European Policy Centre (CEP), Belgrade, Serbia;
Gjergji Vurmo, Program Director, Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), Tirana, Albania;
Stefan Ristovski, European Policy Institute (EPI) Skopje, North Macedonia
We are proud to inform you that the Foreign Policy Initiative BH is again among the Top 100 think-tank organization in Central and Eastern Europe! FPI BH is on the 89th position at the 2019 Go To Think Tank Report published by the University of Pennsylvania.
Our regional think-tank network, TEN – Think for Europe Network, where FPI BH is a member is on the 34th position for the best think-tank networks in the world.