The latest phase of ESI's Communicating Europe project began with a meeting in Prague from 2-3 December 2008 of senior West Balkans officials and TV editors working on European integration issues. They were there to discuss Czech perspectives on EU enlargement and to meet Czech policy-makers engaged in the forthcoming Czech EU Presidency.
This workshop was co-organised by the Prague Security Studies Institute. It was hosted at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is funded by the Strategic programme Fund of the British Foreign and Commonwealth office.
The workshop in Prague is the fifth in a series of eight workshops engaging major EU capitals. The purpose of the Communicating Europe project is to familiarise the participants with the national debates on Europe and the future of enlargement.
The participants were leading figures from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia. Speakers from Czech politics, media and civil society and business worlds presented vivid pictures of Czech Republic's consensus on support for the Western Balkans and future enlargement and examined the different strands of thinking.
The conference started on Tuesday 2 December 2008 with off-the-record presentations by First Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar and Tomáš Szunyog, the Director for SE Europe at the Foreign Ministry. Sessions on the Czech pre-accession experience and on current Czech thinking were presented by Josef Kreuter, an adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs and a fomer Ambassador to the EU, and by Petr Drulák the Director of the Institute of International Relations, and Jiří Schneider the Programme Director of our partners the Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI).
This was followed by a working dinner at the British Embassy, hosted by the British Ambassador Linda Duffield, attended by the ambassadors of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia.
On Wednesday 3 December, the workshop focused on the non-governmental agenda. Tomáš Sedláček, the Chief Macroeconomic Strategist at the ČSOB bank spoke about the economic situation. The question of how the Czech think-tank and civil society organisations influence Czech policy-making was addressed by Jeff Lovitt, the Executive Director of PASOS, (Policy Association for an Open Society), Alice Savovová, Executive Director of the Association for International Affairs (AMO), and Jiří Schneider of PSSI.
A lunchtime session on how the Czech media covers EU issues and the Western Balkans engaged Martin Ehl, the Chief International Editor, of the daily Hospodářské Noviny and Jakub Szántó, the Deputy Foreign Editor and a programme editor of Události - the main Czech TV 1900 News.
The conference concluded with two informal events; a brainstorm on the future direction of the project, and a dinner in a Czech pub with a screening of ESI documentary on Turkey - as part of an informal discussion on communicating Europe.
Participants included: Arta Dade, former Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, currently Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, Arben Kashahu, Secretary-General of Albania's Ministry of European Integration, Boris Vujčić, Croatia's Deputy Chief EU negotiator, Agnesa Rusi, Head of EU Department at Macedonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Aleksandar Pejović, Head of EU Department at Montenegro's MFA, Srdjan Majsterović, Deputy Director of Serbia's European Integration Office, Edin Sehić, Head of EU Department at Bosnia's (BiH) MFA, and Zoran Tešanović, former Minister of Sports & Youth in the Government of Republika Srpska.
The senior TV journalists included: Borjan Jovanovski, the Editor of Evrozoom TV programme in Skopje, Goran Rotim, a senior Correspondent for Croatian TV in Zagreb, Vlada Milić, Senior Editor at the independent Mreza Production Group in Belgrade, Adnan Rondić, Correspondent for Central News at NTV Hayat in Sarajevo, and Monika Stafa, presenter and documentary-maker for Top TV in Tirana, and Bojana Stanisić, the Editor of the Euroskop TV programme in Podgorica.
Hedvig Morvai Horvat, the Executive Director of the Balkans Fund for Democracy also joined us - as she has done throughout the project.