- March 18, 2021
- March 19, 2021
On March 18-19, the Aspen Institute Germany hosted the first meeting of its 2021 Western Balkans Stakeholder Forum on “Supporting Reconciliation Processes in the Western Balkans.”
In a closed-door workshop on March 18, we gathered over 30 regional and international experts and practitioners to discuss the way forward for reconciliation in the Western Balkans and to develop practical policy recommendations on how to further support the process including from the outside. The discussion was structured along four topics a) education, history, and research; b) the role of transitional justice; c) the significance of public discourse and the media; and d) the role of civil society organizations. The workshop was followed by a meeting with government officials from the EU and its member states on March 19 to present the results of the workshop and to discuss how the international community can effectively support reconciliation processes in the region.
Among other things participants stressed the importance of intensifying the research on all victims of the wars and to make research results publicly accessible. Furthermore, in education, experts called for a learning environment that is respectful of diversity, more involvement of the younger generations as well as capacity building efforts for teachers dealing with sensitive historical topics. With regards to transitional justice, the need for a more comprehensive approach by the EU and stricter conditionality in the EU enlargement process was underlined. The issue of hate speech and revisionist narratives by public figures in the region, including politicians, was identified as another key challenge to the reconciliation process, which is why participants called upon the EU to be more outspoken in condemning such behavior. In analyzing the situation of NGOs dealing with the past in the region, the lack of domestic support for their activities was identified as a further challenge. Experts concluded that reconciliation efforts must be kept on the political agenda in the region and that the EU can and should play a decisive role in supporting the process.
The event was kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. Upcoming issues of the forum will focus on media freedom and the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans.