The Advocacy Strategy for the EU Integration of the Western Balkans – Guidelines was presented at the event hosted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. The debate involved MPs, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Negotiating Team and other public institutions, civil society organizations and media.
The keynote speaker Jelica Minić, President of the Forum for International Relations of the European Movement of Serbia, emphasized the importance of advocacy within the EU integration process and asked for a common approach and joint advocacy activities of the Western Balkan countries towards the EU institutions and member states. She also presented the work of the Western Balkans 6 Advocacy Group which is in charge of the initiative and writing of the Guidelines.
The meeting continued with supportive words of Oscar Benedict, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia and H. E. Axel Dittmann, Ambassador of Germany in Serbia, who both expressed their pleasure with this initiative. The key elements of the Guidelines were presented by Ana Marjanović Rudan, the author of the final document. Marko Drajić, the editor of the web portal wb6.info, spoke about the communication channels of the Advocacy Group.
Oscar Benedict said that “the best advocacy of the region is to resolve the problems with neighbours, to be a good neighbour and friend and work together on the development of the region and its countries “. Ambassador Dittmann spoke about Serbia’s progress presented in the European Commission’s Progress Report and the importance of regional cooperation and the role of Serbia and civil society organizations in the accession process.
Ana Marjanović Rudan in her presentation of the Guidelines pointed to the results of research carried out in 4 countries of the region about the modes and activities of communication and lobbying for enlargement. She underlined three ultimate goals of the advocacy strategy: to bring the enlargement back among the EU priority topics; to increase the support to the EU enlargement on the Western Balkans among the EU Member States; to strengthen the pro-European orientation and discourse together with the strengthening of commitment to regional cooperation in the countries of the region.
Marko Drajić presented the structure of the WB6 Advocacy Group web portal and explained the importance of the pioneer enterprise of spreading positive news from the Western Balkan countries, aimed at changing the bad image of the region in Europe and at getting to know better its contribution to the European values and integration.
The meeting continued with the discussion with Tanja Miščević, Head of the Serbia’s Negotiating Team, Marina Jovićević, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for the EU and Momčilo Radulović, President of the European Movement in Montenegro and one of the Guidelines’ authors. They commented on the findings of surveys on national communication policies and advocacy for European integration in the Western Balkan countries, as well as on the main messages offered by the Guidelines to different target groups. The discussion suggested different views on the Western Balkan image and on the strategic suggestions.
After the discussion, Tomas Strazay, Senior Researcher of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, pointed to constant changes during the EU integration process and stressed an important difference in comparison with the time of Slovakia’s accession to the Union. He emphasized that the regional approach helped the Visegrad Group countries to end their journey to the EU at the same time despite their different starting positions.
At the end of November the Guidelines will be presented in Brussels to the members of the European Parliament, representatives of the EU institutions and international organizations and the diplomatic corps, with subsequent presentations in seven other cities of Europe. The development of a strategic document concerning the advocacy of the common interest for the Western Balkan EU accession is the idea of the European Movement in Serbia, realized in cooperation with research organizations from the Western Balkan countries, after the model and with support of the Visegrad Group countries (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic).
The Western Balkan 6 Advocacy Group, whose goal is to facilitate and accelerate the EU integration of the entire region, is an initiative of regional civil society organizations – the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), Foreign Policy Initiative (VPI) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, European Movement in Montenegro (EMiM) and European Movement in Serbia (EMinS), Kosovar Civil Society Foundation (KCSF) and European Policy Institute (EPI) Skopje. The change of the negative image of the region is one of the priorities which the Group will deal with. Through improvement of regional cooperation and common approach in addressing the European decision-makers, the Group will attempt to emphasize the importance of the Western Balkan region for the EU and to return the enlargement issue on top of the European agenda.