Sofia Forum for the Balkans:

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Background and Aims
For more than a decade, international policies towards the countries of the Western Balkans have been structured along the basic axes of maintaining stability and security, and furthering compliance with the standards for European Union accession. Yet as Europe confronts the need for intense internal institutional and economic transformation, public debate in the Western Balkans has increasingly turned to issues divergent from the region’s European agenda, for reasons related to the nature of political processes, economic difficulties, changing demographics, and the media environment. In this context, a reassessment of the policy agendas of the Western Balkan countries, and the identification of alternative elites to revitalize the constructive, pro-European agenda in the region, is of great importance.
As a member of the EU and NATO in the region, Bulgaria has a special responsibility for enhancing the region's long-term stability and integration. The Sofia Forum for the Balkans will gather policy and opinion makers from the Balkans, together with their counterparts from the EU, the United States, the Middle East and North Africa, for in-depth discussions about key issues that, although regional in nature, concern Europe and the transatlantic relationship.
Friday, 8 June 2012
Hotel Sheraton Sofia, Royal Hall II and III
12:00 – 14:00     Registration
14.00 – 14:30     Welcome (on the record)
Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Craig Kennedy, President, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (USA)
Sandra Breka, Head of Department, Robert Bosch Foundation (Germany)
14:45 – 16:15     The EU’s Global Agenda: What Place for the Balkans? (on the record)
The EU’s global standing is predicated on its role model status of a well-governed, values-driven, rules-based and economically stable union. However, the current euro crisis has called Europe’s ability to emerge stronger into question, and diminished its ‘power of attraction’ in international affairs. Against the backdrop of the crisis and the ongoing debate on the future of Europe aspiring member countries in the Western Balkans risk being overlooked on the EU’s priority list. What needs to be done to avoid drawing dividing lines in Europe and in the Balkans?
Nickolay Mladenov, Minister of Foreign Affairs (Bulgaria)
Carl Bildt, Minister of Foreign Affairs (Sweden)
Vesna Pusić, Minister of Foreign Affairs (Croatia)
Ivan Krastev, Chairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies (Bulgaria)
Moderator: Boyko Vassilev, Producer and Moderator of the weekly Panorama news talk show on Bulgarian National Television (Bulgaria)
16:15 – 16:45     Coffee Break
16:45 – 18:15      The Crisis in the EU and the Future of Integration: Is Multispeed Europe the Only Way Forward for Enlargement? (on the record)
The crisis in the EU has revived discussion on the future of a larger union under the current level of political integration. It has been claimed that, due to differences amongst member states, integration can deepen only under the guise of ‘Multispeed Europe’ – a Europe that would provide for an overall framework of cooperation, but wherein member states would be allowed to advance at their own pace and according to their own preferences. While policy areas such as the Schengen cooperation or the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) are already marked by the ‘géometrie variable’, the prospective adoption of differentiated integration in the enlargement process may present grave implications for the principle of European solidarity, and would necessitate the careful management of possible perceptions of new Western Balkan member states that they are offered second- or even third-class membership.
Dušan Reljić, Senior Research Associate, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Germany)
Ivan Vejvoda, Vice President, Programs, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (Serbia)
Teuta Arifi, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs (Macedonia)
Gerald Knaus, Chairman, European Stability Initiative (Austria)
Moderator: Tim Judah, Balkans Correspondent, The Economist (UK)
19:00 – 21:00     Dinner Keynote Address (off the record, closed to press, by invitation only)
Hotel Sheraton Sofia, Serdica Hall
Rosen Plevneliev, President of Bulgaria
21:00                     Parallel Night Owl Sessions (off the record, closed to press)
Session 1: Democratization and the Risks of Ethnicization of Politics: From the Balkans to the Middle East and North Africa
Hotel Sheraton Sofia, Royal Hall I
Democratization requires the establishment of functioning participatory structures for political representation. When a country incorporates a number of ethnic groups, has suffered major conflicts between ethnic groups, or has a legacy of civil upheaval, it is critical to ensure the equal political voice of all constituent communities. In the Western Balkans, and in the MENA region, it is imperative for actors to identify constructive approaches to facilitate inclusion and to avoid an unhealthy ethnicization of politics.
Petrit Selimi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (Kosovo)
Said Sadek, Professor of Political Sociology, American University in Cairo (Egypt)
Ognyan Minchev, Executive Director, Institute for Regional and International Studies (Bulgaria)
Anas El Gomati, Political Activist and Founder of the Sadeq Institute (Libya)
Moderator: Sonja Licht, President, Belgrade Fund of Political Excellence (Serbia)
Session 2: Economic Diversification: Development Challenges from the Balkans to the Middle East and North Africa
Hotel Sheraton Sofia, Sredetz Hall
Diversification is a key tool for the development of strong, sustainable economies. However, economic diversification is notably lacking in the countries of the Western Balkans and the MENA region. The repercussions of the economic crisis and the limitations of specialized economies render it vital for policy leaders and entrepreneurs to elaborate on the disadvantages of inadequate diversification, and to identify alternative measures that may be employed to achieve diversification and to respond to major development challenges.
Vladimir Gligorov, Economist, Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (Austria)
Samir El Daher, Advisor for Economic Affairs and Development to the Prime Minister (Lebanon)
Marin Lessenski, Policy Analyst, European Policies Initiative, and Expert, European Policies and Civic Participation Program, Open Society Institute – Sofia (Bulgaria)
Aleksandar Pejović, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Chief EU Negotiator (Montenegro)
Moderator: Maha Yahya, Regional Advisor, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (Lebanon)
Saturday, 9 June 2012
Hotel Sheraton Sofia, Royal Hall II and III
9:30 – 11:00        Converging or Diverging Agenda of the EU and the US in Europe’s Neighbourhood? (on the record)
Due to its crucial role in the Western Balkans in the 1990s, as well as the importance of its practical assistance in the MENA region, the US has established itself as an authoritative voice in matters pertinent to Europe’s Neighbourhood. In the Western Balkans, despite the EU’s role in promoting regional stabilization and democratization, American positions still resonate strongly with domestic players, especially in places such as Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The prospect of diverging EU and US agendas in the Neighbourhood has hence appeared challenging for some. It is important to analyse recent points of divergence and convergence, to clarify perceived discrepancies between EU and US stances, and to identify possible steps to prevent the negative consequences of perceived gaps.
Nikolaus Graf Lambsdorff, Special Envoy for South-Eastern Europe, Turkey and the EFTA States at the Federal Foreign Office (Germany)
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State (USA)
Franco Frattini, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs (Italy)
Suat Kınıklıoğlu, Member of Parliament, Former Spokesman, Foreign Affairs Committee (Turkey)
Moderator: Rayna Gavrilova, Deputy Director International Operations, Open Society Foundations New York (Bulgaria)
11:00 – 11:30     Coffee Break
11:30 – 13:00     Towards a New Growth Model in the Balkans: How Does the Global Storm Affect Local Economies? (on the record)
The fallout from the European economic crisis has provoked a substantial number of analysts to postulate that the very growth model at work in the Western Balkans must be fundamentally changed in order for a full recovery.  Identified weaknesses of the regional economies include an over-reliance on FDIs and remittances from nationals employed in EU countries, negative trade balances, and trade relations focused exclusively on the EU. In light of these shortcomings and their exacerbation by the EU crisis, what are possible alternatives capable of producing a sufficiently effective reform of the current growth model?

Georgy Ganev, Economist and Program Director for Economic Research, Centre for Liberal Strategies (Bulgaria)
Laza Kekić, Regional Director, Central and Eastern Europe, and Director, Country Forecasting Services, Economist Intelligence Unit (Serbia)
Tzvetan Lazhanski, Advisory Board of Devin AD (Bulgaria)
Elvin Guri, CEO of River Styxx Capital (Albania/ Bulgaria)
Moderator: Dimitar Bechev, Senior Policy Fellow and Head, European Council on Foreign Relations, Sofia Office (Bulgaria)
13:00 – 14:30     Lunch
                               Middle Eastern Culinary Day at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (optional)
                               2, Al. Jendov Str., 1113 Sofia
14:30 – 16:00     New Age? Youth and Europe’s Future (on the record)
In 2011, young Europeans rallied around issues of shared social concern, belying prior speculations that Europe’s young people were too diverse to unite behind a particular cause. Recent research has found that youth in the Western Balkans, coming from disparate backgrounds and contending with legacies of the recent past, tend to be distrustful of their counterparts in the region and disillusioned with ongoing political and socio-economic transformations. How can the leaders of tomorrow be engaged in today’s pressing debates on the future of Europe and the region? The study “From Yugoslavia to the European Union: 20 Years after 1991 – The Tale of Two Generations” will serve as the starting point for this panel’s debate.
                                Srdjan Bogosavljević, Director, Ipsos Strategic Marketing (Serbia)
                                Slobodan Đinović, Co-Founder, Centre for Applied Non Violent Actions and Strategies, and CEO, Orion Telekom (Serbia)
                                Jan Zlatan Kulenović, Executive Director, Youth Information Agency (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Rana Birden Çorbacıoğlu, Executive Director, Global Relations Forum (Turkey)
Moderator: Vessela Tcherneva, Spokesperson to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Bulgaria)
16:00 – 16:30     Coffee Break
16:30 – 18:00     The Balkans’ Way Ahead (on the record)
The continued progress of the Western Balkans will depend on the ability of the countries of the region to further democratic and market reforms, strengthen rule of law, deepen judicial reform, combat corruption and organized crime, and create favorable investment climates. This concluding session will examine the outlook for the region’s European integration, based on the recommendations and main conclusions from preceding deliberations.
Sinan Ülgen, Chairman, Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, and Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Europe (Turkey)
Robert Cooper, Counsellor, European External Action Service
Miroslav Lajčák, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs (Slovakia)
Milica Delević, Director, European Integration Office, Government of the Republic of Serbia
Moderator: Minna Järvenpää, International Advocacy Director, Open Society Foundations (Finland)
20:00                     Dinner Keynote Address (on the record)
Anna Ibrisagić, Member of the European Parliament (Sweden)
23:00                     Studio 5 Live Music Club
                               Performance by Theodosii Spasov, Famous Bulgarian Kaval Player and Composer
Sunday, 10 June 2012

Period: 8 June 2012 - 9 June 2012