Challenges of the European Union-Russia partnership in the field of energy

Author: Minja Čulić

Despite often conflicting positions, the European Union and Russia continue to be mutually important strategic partners in almost all economic areas. However, it seems that one economic aspect stands out in comparison to others in terms of this dependence, and that is energy. Although the European Union is showing a tendency to become energy independent, such ideas are still in their infancy, which is why many countries of the “Old Continent” continue to be dependent on Russian gas as one of the leading energy sources, primarily due to reduced use of dirty, fossil fuels. However, they are indeed being forgotten in the European Union. On the other hand, the Russian economy is largely dependent on fuel exports, primarily oil and natural gas, and due to the energy independence of the growing superpowers, India and predominantly China, which have opted to use energy from their coal communities, the European Union continues to be Russia’s most important strategic partner. However, after the Navalny affair, the future of the already agreed “North Stream” was called into question due to anti-Russian protests throughout the European Union. This paper is dedicated to researching the extent to which the European Union depends on Russia in terms of EU energy security and whether there is a potential alternative to the one for Nord Stream?

Keywords: Energy, European Union, Geopolitics, Russia, Security

VPI BH RESEARCH INTERNSHIP paper, Foreign Policy Initiative BH, 2021.

Mentor: Lejla Ramić-Mesihović, PhD

English version PDF*: Challenges of the European Union-Russia partnership in the field of energy

Democratic Apostasy in the EU: What Does Party Politics Have to Do with It?

Author: Melisa H.Mehmedović

Against the backdrop of democracy backsliding across the European Union, the goal of this paper is to analyze the role of the Union and its institutions in facilitating or containing the trend of the deterioration of democratic credentials of its members. By shedding light on the cases of the retrogression of democratic institutions in Hungary and Poland and conducting a comparative analysis of the EU institutions’ response to its members’ transgressions, this paper aims to fathom whether the existence of party politics at the supranational level has translated into a discrepancy between the Union’s reactions to the events that have unfolded in the two member states. Furthermore, this paper explores if the absence of decisive action on the part of the EU and it turning a blind eye to certain cases of misdemeanor has paved the way for the realization of authoritarian pretensions at the national level.

Key words: Democratic backsliding; Party politics; Poland; Hungary; European Union

VPI BH RESEARCH INTERNSHIP paper, Foreign Policy Initiative BH, 2021.

Mentor: Lejla Ramić-Mesihović, PhD

English version PDF*: Democratic Apostasy in the EU: What Does Party Politics Have to Do with It?


Western Balkans, a region which includes the states of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo, is of immense geopolitical importance today and is increasingly under the influence of competing great power interests. While the West, i.e. the EU and the USA, endeavors to gradually integrate these countries into the European Union, actors such as Russia, China and Turkey are pursuing their own goals. The purpose of this study is to shed light on the six states of the Western Balkans with regard to the influence by external actors. What was brought to light here is an extremely differentiated picture of the region, with regional peculiarities in history, religion and other factors being decisive for the current orientation of the respective Western Balkan countries.

Authors: Haris Ćutahija, Alba Cela, Azra Karastanović, Zoran Nechev, Ivan Nikolovski, Strahinja Subotić and Demush Shasha

Download the study here. (Available only in English)


This publication contains the background papers, discussion reports, and key recommendations developed over the course of the project. We would like to express our gratitude to the German Federal Foreign Office, whose financial support through the means of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe made this project possible. Moreover, we would like to thank all participants who have so actively contributed to the success of our workshops, discussions, and conferences, and, in particular, all authors of input papers for contributing substantially with their expertise and for providing thought-provoking impulses for discussion and constructive
solutions. Finally, we would like to thank Sandra Schwalen and Sarah Fischer for their contributions to this publication.

Download the study here. (Available only in English)



The COVID-19 outbreak introduced significant changes in our everyday lives. Online platforms for video communication and commerce sales are booming, while the population is, by and large, changing its habits. Particularly hit are service delivery systems where both service providing institutions and their clients had to accommodate to the new modes of interaction. In this way, the pandemic has also raised important questions about the nature and quality of administrative services in these extraordinary circumstances. As our direct contacts with institutions have been minimized, the relevance of electronic services (e-services) as
primary means of interaction with public administration gains importance.

Full policy brief in English available here.

How and why is Greta Thunberg a challenge for world leaders?

Author: Hana Sarajlić

Greta Thunberg is a seventeen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, who started her activism in 2017, which has inspired the international movement to combat climate change. At the age of fifteen, instead of at school, she spent her days in front of the Swedish Parliament building, calling for stronger action by government structures on climate change, holding the “School Strike for Climate ” sign. Just a year later, she decided to pause schooling for one academic year to dedicate herself to encouraging world leaders to address the issue of climate change. She has become a leading voice, inviting millions to join climate protests around the world. By directly addressing what world leaders could do, but did not do about climate change, she has provoked reactions from many politicians and leaders, most of whom tend to be very critical. The severity of reactions to a 16-year-old activist with an autism spectrum disorder can be described by various psychological processes, including the tendency to attribute a person’s behavior to her dispositional characteristics such as age, but also the autism spectrum disorder that many have used as an argument against her propaganda.

Key words: Greta Thunberg, Activism, The environmental movement, Climate change, Climate crisis, World leaders, Populism

VPI BH RESEARCH INTERNSHIP paper, Foreign Policy Initiative BH, 2020.

Mentor: Lejla Ramić-Mesihović, PhD

English version: How and why is Greta Thunberg a challenge for world leaders?

B/H/S version: Available soon


The second public perception survey in the Western Balkans


• Most of citizens in the Western Balkans perceive that dealing with public administration has become easier in the past two years (57%). This view is more pronounced in Kosovo, Serbia and Albania (73%, 65% and 63% respectively), on the one hand, than in Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia (38% and 48%) on the other. Figures in Montenegro are around the average with 55%.

• With regards to the time needed to obtain administrative services, the figures are very similar to the ones in dealing with public administration. On average, 57% of respondents in the region agree that this time has decreased. Kosovo, Serbia and Albania are considerably above the average, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia below it, whereas the figures in Montenegro do not statistically differ from the regional average.

• The majority of respondents in the region also agrees that there have been efforts by governments to make administrative procedures simpler for citizens and businesses (58%). Again, Kosovo, Serbia and Albania score higher (70%, 70% and 62%), while North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are lagging behind the regional average with 51% and 37% respectively.

• Citizens are largely aware of electronic services but they do not use them as much. The minority of 39% of respondents in the region say they use these services sometimes or often. E-services are used more in Serbia and North Macedonia than in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania. Montenegro is between these two groups of countries.

• The public in the Western Balkans sees governments more responsive to citizens’ feedback on how to improve administrative services than it did in 2017. It also reports that citizens or civil society have been more involved in the monitoring of administrative services. These changes have been most obvious in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, while somewhat less so in Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia. By contrast, no positive change since the 2017 survey has been recorded in Albania.

• As for the sociodemographic categories, the results show that public sector employees and citizens holding a university degree have somewhat more positive perception of public administration than the other sociodemographic groups.

• The COVID-19 pandemic does not seem to have substantially changed the nature of interaction with public administration.

Full report in English available here 

The reasons behind the lack of progress made within the Berlin Process

Author: Emir Velić

The Berlin Process, an initiative promoted since 2014 mainly by the German government, was perceived to be a much-needed boost in helping the Western Balkan countries in their EU integration paths, by aiming to tackle some of the biggest structural problems in the region. The agenda of the Berlin Process focused on connecting people, states, and economies, and it introduced projects and initiatives in the fields of economic connectivity, infrastructure, and youth cooperation. However, the move towards the end-goal of the process has been rather slow, since not much actual progress towards the EU integration of the WB countries has been made. This paper argues that the Berlin Process has not resulted in swifter EU integration of Western Balkan countries partly because it did not introduce a systematic monitoring mechanism to track the developments made during the process, but mainly due to the fallacies in the EU enlargement process itself.

Key words: Berlin Process, European Union, Western Balkans, EU enlargement, EU integration

VPI BH RESEARCH INTERNSHIP paper, Foreign Policy Initiative BH, 2020.

Mentor: Lejla Ramić-Mesihović, PhD

English version: The reasons behind the lack of progress made within the Berlin Process PDF*

B/H/S version: Available soon

About Emir Velić 

Emir Velić is a third-year student of International Relations and European Studies at the International Burch University. During his studies, he became familiar with the modern theories of international relations, and began expressing special interests in geopolitics and European integration. In cooperation with the Diplomacy Club of Burch University, he had opportunities to meet numerous officials of international organizations, as well as ambassadors of foreign countries. He believes that these experiences have helped him better understand global political trends, including the challenges that Bosnia and Herzegovina faces in conducting its foreign policy.

The point where EU’s top-down conditionality hits executive bias in developing democracies of the Western Balkans

Author: Hata Kujraković

The main reform driver of the Western Balkan countries is the EU integration path. Within the process of adoption and implementation of the necessary norms and reforms, the EU primarily engage in a dialogue with the executive branch members, deepening the executive bias. Even though the domestic parliaments are not completely kept out of the process, there is a lack of formal political dialogue between the EU and the MPs from the WB countries. The chances of the national parliaments and the civil society sector to scrutinize the accession process are very limited due to the EU’s top-down conditionality. This negatively affects the democratization of the WB countries and calls for a greater inclusivity of the whole process.

Keywords: European Union, Accession process, Top-down conditionality, Executive bias, Western Balkans, Democratization

VPI BH RESEARCH INTERNSHIP paper, Foreign Policy Initiative BH, 2020.

Mentor: Lejla Ramić-Mesihović, PhD

English version: The point where EU’s top-down conditionality hits executive bias in developing democracies of the Western Balkans PDF*

B/H/S version: Available soon

About Hata Kujraković

Hata Kujraković is an MSc student of European Affairs at Lund University, Sweden. She holds a BA in International Relations and European Studies from International Burch University, BiH. She has worked on various projects related to the improvement and promotion of human rights and advancement of knowledge in the sciences among students in BiH. Her interests are political processes in the EU. Hata is a Humanity in Action BiH fellow, where she also worked as a project assistant.

Breaking the impasse: Exploiting new opportunities to strengthen EU-Western Balkans relations

This discussion paper argues that successful economic and democratic transformation of the Western Balkans depends not only on a more coherent political engagement of the EU and its member states with the region, but also on a more effective use of the full range of tools within the enlargement policy toolbox. The revised methodology for accession negotiations and the recently announced Economic and Investment Plan (EIP) have the potential to revive the region’s sluggish EU integration process. For these instruments to succeed, it would be essential to show that they help drive the process forward. This will only be the case if negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia are launched, i.e. the first Inter-governmental Conferences (IGCs) are held during the German presidency of the Council of the EU. In this way, the EU and its member states will show their actual commitment to the process and also likely incentivise the other countries in the region to speed up their domestic transformation processes in view of EU accession.

Download the paper here PDF*.