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Preparing for Enlargement: The EU and Western Balkans’ Contributions

29/05/2024, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation - h. 10:00

The EU and the Western Balkans are in the process of preparing for new EU enlargements. To this end, the EU has just adopted a New Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, that is supposed to increase their participation in the European Single Market. This intermediate step towards EU membership should open new opportunities of economic cooperation for both public and private actors, sustain Western Balkans’ internal reforms, as well as accelerate their path towards full integration in the EU. At the same time, the Western Balkans are expected to start contributing more substantially to the economic and geopolitical security of the EU, to deal with increasingly complex regional and global environments. Nonetheless, progresses of the EU enlargement will also remain conditional to the success of EU internal reforms, to make its policies, budget and institutions fit for an enlarged Union.

In this context, the conference serves as an opportunity to discuss several aspects of current EU-Western Balkans cooperation. It aims to increase the understanding of Western Balkans’ role and contributions to the EU's wider regional integration system. In particular, the conference will focus on three main sets of issues. The first panel will look at how the Western Balkan countries could benefit more from increased participation in the European Single Market, in light of the measures foreseen in the New Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, proposed by the European Commission. A second panel will examine how the Western Balkans contribute to EU economic and geopolitical security, taking into account the blueprint launched by the Spanish EU Council presidency for achieving an “open strategic autonomy.” Finally, the last panel will provide an opportunity for discussion among participants from both the EU and the Western Balkans about their visions for the EU’s future, its institutions and policies.

The conference is organized by Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and the Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT), with the support, assistance, and sponsorship of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and under the strategic partnership of the Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation.