- June 23, 2022
- June 24, 2022
On June 21-24, 2022, Aspen Germany held a stimulating closed-door conference “Democratization and the Role of Parliaments in the Western Balkans” as part of “Aspen Western Balkans Stakeholder Forum 2022”, which was kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. With over 40 distinguished members of parliament, government officials, activists, and think tank leaders from the Western Balkans and Germany attending, the conference discussions were vibrant, meaningful, and candid.
The democratization of political processes in the Western Balkans, particularly through the strengthening of the role of parliaments, is an essential component of long-term stability and the establishment of sustainable democracies, as well as a non-negotiable condition for EU integration. Constructive dialog across the political spectrum is crucial for the functioning of democratic institutions and especially parliaments. However, reform processes in the areas of rule of law and democratization have progressed slowly or stalled in many countries of the Western Balkans. Authoritarian tendencies of governments, weak parliaments, political polarization, and the politicization of numerous aspects of public life and, specifically, the media landscape have contributed to these developments. These factors have also had a negative impact on the EU accession process. The conference therefore addressed the reform processes in the area of democratization and the role of parliaments.
At an inflection point for the European integration of the Western Balkans, the conference helped spark new ideas and prospects for collaboration.
Highlights of the conference included a welcome dinner featuring insightful remarks from Volkmar Klein, Member of Parliament, German Bundestag, frank roundtable discussions with Christiane Hullmann, Head of Division 209 Western Balkans at the German Federal Foreign Office, and Manuel Sarrazin, Federal Government Special Representative for the Countries of the Western Balkans on prospects for European integration of the Western Balkans, and an hourlong Bundestag meeting with Yvonne Magwas, Vice President, German Bundestag.
Aspen Germany were also honored to hold a dinner reception with six Member of Parliament’s who stayed late into the night for impassioned, productive discussions with our participants: Valentin Abel, Adis Ahmetović, Metin Hakverdi, Jasmina Hostert, Anton Hofreiter, and Josip Juratovic.
Moreover, the conference included a thought-provoking meeting with Dr. Eva Flecken, Director of Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb) and Dr. Tobias Schmid, European Representative to the European Director’s Conference of the State Media Authorities and Director of Landesanstalt für Medien NRW, expertly moderated by Aspen trustee and Germany’s former Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation Dr. Karsten Voigt.
Additionally, Aspen Germany held over nine hours of dialogue sessions featuring input from our distinguished participants. These sessions focused on the following topics: Rule of Law and Democratization, Role of Parliaments, Media Freedom, Political Polarization (featuring remarks from Boris Mijatović, Member of Parliament, German Bundestag), and Role of External Actors.