ESI President Gerald Knaus was invited to hold the introductory speech at a lecture by Mr. Božidar Djelic (former Minister of Finance and Economy of Serbia) who spoke at an event in Vienna jointly organised by the Bank Austria Creditanstalt and the Europäische Liga für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit. The event was attended by national and international representatives.
Drawing on ESI's recently released report; Mr. Knaus elaborated on the argument that the potential candidates in the Western Balkans should be given the chance to progress towards EU membership on an equal footing with previous candidates. He stressed that a credible strategy for integrating the region into the EU, and preventing the emergence of a Balkan ghetto, is critical not just for the region, but also for the EU itself.
In a similar vein, Mr. Djelic argued for the full and prompt Europeanisation of the Balkans countries. Using the example of Serbia, he noted a variety of favourable conditions in the region, however stressed that if the chance of integrating the countries of the Western Balkans is not taken soon, the emergence of a new European ghetto and the creation of an even increased development gap between the region and it's neighbouring countries would be the consequence. As Mr. Knaus did before, he urged to make all five components of EU assistance in 2007-2013 (including regional, human resources and rural development) available to both potential candidates and candidate countries.