Vienna, August 27, 2015
In the framework of the Vienna Western Balkans Summit, Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), together with European Fund for the Balkans (EFB) presented their policy recommendations for solution of bilateral disputes among the countries of the region. On the occasion of the Vienna Western Balkans Summit and in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria, BiEPAG experts presented a set of recommendations from their policy brief “Removing obstacles to EU accession: Bilateral disputes in the Western Balkans”, together with the “Declaration on bilateral issues”, proposed for adoption to governments of the Western Balkan states at the press conference today, organized at Hofburg Palace where the Summit takes place.
The BiEPAG experts recommend a more intensive international engagement in solution of the outstanding disputes of the Western Balkan countries, and in particular the engagement of the EU, as well as of the other international and local actors, as Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) from Sarajevo, and the representatives of the regional civil society. A proposal was made to the governments of the Western Balkan states to adopt a joint declaration, also open to EU-members, to commit to not use the outstanding bilateral disputes to block the progress of neighbors on their accession negotiations. Finally, a joint framework was proposed for solution of border disputes, facilitated best practice exchange and for border demarcation.
“We see the invitation to participate at the Vienna Summit as a great honor, but also as a unique opportunity to contribute to regional development through tangible recommendations”, said Igor Bandović from the European Fund for the Balkans. He also added that “the whole idea behind the establishment of the BiEPAG Group was to “bridge the distance” between the countries of the Western Balkans on one side, and the EU institutions and the EU countries’ governments, on the other”.
The proposed Declaration involves the commitment of the Western Balkan countries to solution of all the outstanding issues in the spirit of good neighborliness and shared commitment to European Integration, and to an obligation to not block, or encourage others to block, the progress of neighbors on their respective EU paths. Also, resolution of any open questions should take place through bilateral negotiations or other means of peaceful settlement of conflicts, and annual reports on progress made are to be prepared. Some of the outstanding issues mentioned in the BiEPAG recommendations include the long-standing name dispute between Macedonia and Greece, the lingering unresolved border demarcation between Croatia and Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the border demarcation between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, and the recent conflict between Slovenia and Croatia over the bay of Piran.
About the European Fund for the Balkans:
The European Fund for the Balkans (EFB) is designed to create and support initiatives aimed at strengthening democracy and fostering European integration by enabling inclusive policy making, supporting capacity development and creating a platform for exchange and co-operation in the Western Balkans.
About the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group:
Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG) is an open group of policy analysts, scholars and researchers, established as a joint initiative of the EFB and the Centre for Southeast European Studies of the University of Graz. The goal of the Group is to promote the integration of the Western Balkans in the EU, and to contribute to the consolidation of democracy in the region, through the facilitation of evidence-based policy dialogue.