Western Balkans: Geopolitical Interests and Orientations
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Western Balkans: Geopolitical Interests and Orientations
22 May @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Twenty years after NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, the Western Balkans countries are beset by economic, political, and social uncertainty. The promise of membership to the European Union, which has been a driver of reform in the region, has still not yet materialised for all-but-one country. Security issues are again at the fore of regional politics. True, the controversial and long-running naming dispute between Greece and Northern Macedonia has been solved. But Russia’s assertive behaviour, China’s emergence as a key actor, and other developments have impacted on the region’s geopolitical influences and orientations.
By kind invitation of Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, the Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to a panel discussion about the current situation of the Balkan region and its’ past, present, and future development.
H. E. Ambassador Aleksandra Joksimović has been Serbian Ambassador to the UK since 2018. In 2008 she became a member of the Publishing Division of the official journal International Affairs at the Institute of International Politics and Economics in Belgrade and in 2008 she was elected to be the President of the Centre for Foreign Policy. From 2010 to 2015 she was a Member of the Board of Directors of Centre for Democracy and Reconciliation of South East Europe, Thessaloniki. She holds a degree in International Relationship from the University of Belgrade.
Tim Judah is a reporter and political analyst for The Economist, and has written several books, mainly focusing on Serbia and Kosovo. He is considered an expert authority on the Balkans. In the Balkans itself, he is president of the board of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and a member of the board of the Kosovar Stability Initiative. Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Judah has reported on the Euromaidan Revolution and the War in Donbass. His most recent book In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine was published in December 2015.
James Ker-Lindsay is a Visiting Professor at LSEE. His research focuses on conflict, peace and security in South East Europe (Western Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus), European Union enlargement, and secession and recognition in international politics. His research focuses on issues relating to conflict, peace, and security in the Western Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. He is Eurobank EFG Senior Research Fellow on the Politics of South East Europe at the European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science. He has a BSc(Econ) from the University of London and an MA and PhD in International Conflict Analysis from the University of Kent. He has held visiting posts at the University of Pristina, the University of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and the University of Nicosia and is a Research Associate at the Centre for International Studies, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford.
Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP is a Member of Parliament for Maldon. John was educated at Winchester College and University College, London, where he graduated with a degree in economics. Prior to his election, John worked both in Whitehall and the City. In 1992, John was elected Member of Parliament for South Colchester and Maldon. In 1997, John was elected to represent the new constituency of Maldon and East Chelmsford. After the 2001 General Election, John was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and in July, 2002 Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. In July 2005 he was elected Chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, a position that he held for 10 years until 2015. Following the 2015 General Election, John was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in David Cameron’s Conservative Government and became a member of the Privy Council. He stepped down from this position following the change of Prime Minister in July 2016.
On Wednesday the 22nd May, the Henry Jackson Society welcomed Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP to chair a panel discussion with speakers H.E. Ambassador Aleksandra Joksimovic, Tim Judah, and James Ker-Lindsay about the current situation of the Balkan region, including its past, present and future geopolitical orientations and interests. H.E. Ambassador Aleksandra Joksimovic is the Serbian Ambassador to the UK and Tim Judah is a reporter and political analyst for the Economist, has written several books, and is considered an expert authority on the Balkans. James Ker-Lindsay, who spoke third, is a Visiting Professor at the LSE where part of his research focuses on conflict, peace, and security in South East Europe and the Western Balkans.
The talk opened with an overview of the geopolitical situation in the Western Balkans. There have been some substantial changes in the region. Most notably, Joksimovic emphasised, the unification of a common foreign policy strategic goal of European integration. However, she added that this process is slowing in comparison with the past. This could be a result of a range of key actors, including the various roles of Russia, China, the US and the UK in the EU. Joksimovic stressed that there is no future of the Western Balkans without EU membership, but concluded that these differences, both inside the EU and Europe itself, make it difficult for the Western Balkans to find its place in such a dynamic geopolitical landscape.
Following and expanding on the geopolitical focus, Judah pointed to three factors of importance for the Western Balkans. The first is the geopolitical significance of Germany, specifically the decision by Angela Merkel at the recent Berlin Summit to supress the idea of changing borders between Serbia and Kosovo. The second is the contradictory demographic trends the region is experiencing, leading to an acute problem of shrinking populations through both ageing populations and increasing emigration. The third is the question of arms races, raised by figures showing Serbian military expenditure to equal the rest of the region combined, and how Bosnia might respond.
Ker-Lindsay summarised that there is one thing that stands out from the discussion; that the Balkans is an area of increasing geopolitical interest. He problematised the EU’s inability to follow through with a credible prospect for membership which, in turn, has opened up the ground for a lot of other countries to start exerting influence in the region. This is a concern we need to tackle. In light of the upcoming EU elections determining the level of profound internal transformation for the EU itself, Ker-Lindsay ended by noting that what happens next is going to be much more significant for the geopolitical future of the Western Balkans.
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