- June 09, 2020
On June 9, the Aspen Institute Germany hosted the first issue of its online Expert Workshop Series „The COVID-19 Pandemic in the Western Balkans: Consequences and Policy Approaches“. The closed-door workshop focused on “Effects on Democracy, Rule of Law, and Civil Society” in the wake of the public health crisis and gathered more than 30 experts from the Western Balkan countries, representatives of EU member states as well as from EU institutions.
After welcoming remarks by Ambassador Susanne Schütz, Director for South-Eastern Europe, Turkey and the EFTA States at the German Federal Foreign Office, members of the Think for Europe Network (TEN), a network of six Western Balkan think tanks, presented their working paper on the recent developments in the region concerning the independence of institutions, the respect for citizens’ rights, the political and societal climate, as well as the situation of critical voices and vulnerable groups. The ensuing breakout sessions focused on discussing ideas on how to prevent negative effects in these areas and how to seize potential windows of opportunity. Some of the ideas voiced included supporting independent media and civil society in their function as watchdogs, and strictly linking additional EU support for the region to the criteria of good governance. Further results of this workshop will be published in the upcoming weeks.
The Expert Workshop Series was organized in the framework of Aspen’s Regional Dialog on the Western Balkans, kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. Upcoming issues will focus on the pandemic’s effects on regional cooperation, the influence of third countries in the region as well as economic and social developments in the aftermath of the public health crisis.