11 February 2012
ESI discussing EU enlargement in Skopje
View of the panel. Photo: Danijel Tadic
View of the panel. Photo: Danijel Tadic

ESI's Kristof Bender was in Skopje to discuss EU enlargement with social democrats from South Eastern Europe and the EU. The conference was organised by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity, the Institute for Social Democracy "Progres", and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. He spoke on a panel on political obstacles for EU enlargement, chaired by former Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, with economist Vladimir Gligorov and Kristian Vigenin, a Bulgarian MEP and the chair of the PES Task Force on the Western Balkans. Kristof talked about visa liberalisation and the transformation of Croatia. These are two recent success stories that show that the EU accession process can work also in the current circumstances, with all the economic and fiscal challenges that lie at the heart of the Euro crisis.

Kristof outlined opportunities for the current political leaders of South Eastern Europe and sketched a few ideas on what enlargement-friendly EU member states could advocate for in order to strengthen the somewhat tarnished credibility of the accession process. Admitting all Western Balkan countries, including Kosovo, as observers to the first part of screening when Montenegro will (probably) start with this process in mid-2012, would cost nothing, but send an important signal and provide motivation for civil servants all over the region.

On 9 February Kristof also gave a talk on the prospects for EU enlargement at the Mother Theresa public policy school of the Center for Research and Policy Making (CRPM).

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Photo credits
Alan Grant is an Irish photographer who travelled extensively in the Balkans and other countries and regions of the world. Thanks to him, ESI is able to show fascinating pictures of the Balkans: the facades of Tirana, the painted mosques of Travnik, the fabulous old houses of Plovdiv and the spectacular blue of water - dark in the Bay of Kotor, emerald in the river valleys of Bosnia, deep blue in Ohrid, twinkling in the Aegean Sea and on the Bosporus.

You can find out more about Alan Grant on his websites:
Jonathan Lewis lives between London and Istanbul. He moved to London and spent many years studying photography and now specialises in photojournalism, documentary photography and commercial work for a wide variety of private and commercial clients in the UK, Europe and Turkey. His work has appeared in a number of magazines and publications and is used on the ESI website as well.

You can find out more about Jonathan Lewis on his website www.jonathanlewisphoto.com