Blog site helps bridge EU, western Balkans

19/05/2014

A blog site that focuses on EU integration for the western Balkans brings together policy-makers, analysts and students to debate regional issues.

By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 19/05/14

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The new website promotes the western Balkans' EU integration. [AFP]

In an effort to promote European integration for the western Balkans and democratic principles, the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group launched a blog forum for discussions on reform processes in the region. The group is a joint initiative comprised of the European Fund for the Balkans and the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz, Austria.

Florian Bieber, director of the centre, said the main goals of the blog are to open debate and spark ideas that will help policymakers in the EU to re-engage in the western Balkans.

"The blog is based on the observation that countries in the western Balkans are often not pursuing accession as vigorously as they could. Thus, the blog is about promoting a debate on how the EU integration of the region could be accelerated and given a new dynamic," Bieber told SETimes.

He said the policy group is focused on achieving democratic, prosperous EU member states in the western Balkans.

"The key goal is to promote the consolidation of liberal democracies in the region, including a strong regard for tolerance. It is understood that EU accession is a tool to achieve this goal, not an end in itself," Bieber said.

Bloggers on the site include regional and international experts, officials, journalists and academic institution representatives who exchange their views transparently.

"The Balkans in Europe Policy Blog builds a bridge between social sciences and policymakers," Igor Bandovic, senior programme manager at the European Fund for the Balkans in Belgrade, told SETimes. "The aim is not to reinvent the wheel, but to build on former and current strategies of the Europeanisation of the region, keeping in mind the motto of the European Fund for the Balkans, 'To bring the western Balkans closer to the EU,' but also the EU closer to the western Balkans."

Marija Risteska, the Macedonian project manager for the Centre for Research and Policy Making, contributes to the blog. She said the discussions create a better understanding in Europe of an EU future that includes the region.

"Balkan perspectives focus on political criteria, economic development, culture and education. Opening discussions on important issues, such as the possible Turkification of the Balkans, brain drain, educational reforms, good governance and integrity system reforms, are pertinent to European integration and are high on the list of the citizens," Risteska told SETimes.

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She said the fact that the blog is regional is important.

"It provides an innovative approach and brings back the comparative perspective to the European integration process," she said.

Correspondent Klaudija Lutovska in Skopje contributed to this report.

What initiatives do you think could help foster a common goal for EU integration of the region? Share what you think below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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