On March 29th, 2012, GMF's Paris Office partnered with the Center for International Studies and Research-Sciences Po (CERI) to organize a discussion entitled "The Western Balkans, the EU and NATO: What prospects for enlargement?". Ivan Vejvoda, GMF vice-president for Programs joined fellow discussants Jacques Rupnik, Director of Research the CERI, and Christian Lequesne, director of the CERI. About 100 people attended the event, including members of the diplomatic community from the Balkans, distinguished foreign and economic affairs journalists, along with academicians and students.
The discussion highlighted the regional advances that have been achieved as well as the political challenges within European and transatlantic context facing the region. The discussants acknowledged the importance of the EU and NATO integration processes as “state building devices” in the region, through their effects on stabilization and democratization within the member states. Ivan Vejvoda and Jacques Rupnik pointed out the specificity of the region’s approach to integration, through which it perceives integration as a regional opportunity and not simply as an opportunity for individual States to access these institutions.
The discussants also expressed many concerns about the political challenges of the integration process, including whether the region could face this burdensome process in the context of the economic crisis and the regional security situation that includes “frozen” conflicts in Macedonia or North Kosovo. The speakers agreed that some significant progress had been made in this regard; however, the efforts in making the Western Balkans an integrated EU region have been undermined by regional political legacies such as corruption or the permeation of the organized crime networks in the state-building process. As a consequence of this, populations remain mistrustful of their domestic institutions. The EU is seen as one of the only answers to those challenges, even though the U.S. could become a strong partner in the region.