BCSDN in partnership with Queen Mary University London and the LSEE organized an international workshop on the EU Integration and Minority protection in the Western Balkans. The workshop organized as part of the FP7-funded MAXCAP project took place at the Radon Plaza Hotel, Sarajevo, on 20th-21st November. Around 30 participants – EU officials and leaders, domestic politicians, civil society representatives, and academics were gathered together to assess the effectiveness of EU instruments and strategies for strengthening minority rights protection in the Western Balkans.
The keynote address was presented by Mr. Jakob Finci, who reflecting on the Sejdici-Finci vs Bosnia and Herzegovina case, highlighted that there are other ‘99 problems’ detrimentally and disproportionately affecting minorities and need to be addressed by domestic leaders and also the EU. Mr. Jan Snaidauf, Head of Political and Economic Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina was the second keynote speaker who gave a brief overview of EU’s mechanisms and approach in promoting minority rights in the Western Balkans.
The second day of the workshop began with the panel “Effects of the EU Integration Process on Democratization in Enlargement Countries: The Issue of Minority Protection”. Dr. Marko Kmezic from the University of Graz presented a paper on the EU’s evolving policies towards enlargement countries vis-à-vis minorities. Dr. Neven Andjelic from Regent’s University London spoke about processes of democratization, transition, and Europeanization by comparing the Slovakian path with the Western Balkan’s one. Ms. Lejla Somun-Krupalija from the Association CRVENA/RED, raised the issue of minority rights and the intersection with the other equality issues -LGBTI and gender. Ms Elitsa Kortenska, a PhD candidate from Leiden University, presented first findings from a research on the public discourses on enlargement across EU members and enlargement countries, in which BCSDN has also been involved in.
The second panel “EU Conditionality: Limitations and Opportunities”, was opened by prof. Dr. Meltem Müftüler-Bac from Sabanci University who talked about the impact of European Union’s political conditionality. Dr. Bojan Bilic from the University of Amsterdam presented his research on how the process of EU integration affects the promotion of the LGBTI rights and activism in enlargement countries. Dr. Simonida Kacarska from the European Policy Institute – Skopje spoke how some policies implemented by EU intended to enhance minority rights protection can be improved in practice.
The third panel “Acting upon Limitations and Opportunities: Civil Society and Minority Protection” was opened by Mr. Nadir Redzepi from the Open Society Foundation – The Roma Initiative. He presented how his organization is helping domestic stakeholders working on the Roma issue to make most of EU assistance and discussed the effects of the EU conditionality on the minority issues. Ms. Danica Ilic from the Media Diversity London spoke how the media both is driven and can influence opinions but also polices in respect to EU integration and minority rights. Mr. Adriatic Hasantari from Roma Active Albania closed the panel with a presentation of lessons learned, challenges and future recommendations derived from the extensive work his organization has done for which was just awarded the 2014 Award for Roma Integration by the European Commission.
All the panels were accompanied by very fruitful discussions which along with the valuable contribution from the speakers will serve as a basis for the scientific report that will be prepared by the Queen Mary University, London. Stay tuned for the report, while also audio transcripts from the whole workshop are available from both Day 1 and Day 2.
The Agenda of the event can be viewed here.