Aspen Germany’s Sixth Southeast Europe Foreign Ministers’ conference took place on November 5, 2014 in Berlin. The conference was hosted by the Aspen Institute Germany in cooperation with the German Federal Foreign Office and the British Embassy in Berlin under the patronage of Federal Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. Besides the German and British Ministers of Foreign Affairs, it assembled their colleagues from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, as well as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. As in previous years, the conference was divided into a public and a closed-door part. The public part took place at the British Embassy in Berlin and was opened by a panel discussion between business representatives from Germany, the UK, and the region. They stressed that regional cooperation and infrastructure enhancement were vital for investments and the economic development in the Western Balkans. The countries of the region would have to increasingly assume responsibility for such reforms. However, positive signs with regards to this could already be seen. Prior to the Foreign Ministers’ panel discussion, Steinmeier and Hammond presented a joint German-British initiative to revitalize the reform process in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is supposed to lead the country back on the track towards EU accession. The initiative was wholeheartedly welcomed and supported at the conference and in its aftermath by the countries of the region, the European Union, and the USA. The following panel discussion focused on the topic of EU integration and how to sustain progress and reform in this field. All of the participants agreed that the Western Balkans were part of Europe and that the EU membership perspective for the countries of the region had to be maintained. However, the conditionality of the accession negotiations would have to be upheld as well. At the same time, active support by the EU and its member states for reform efforts in the region would be necessary.
Click here to download the agenda and conference report.