Policy-makers, officials and experts dealing with the Western Balkans participated in a discussion lead by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and George Soros (Open Society Institute). The aim of the meeting was to explore how Europeanisation and reforms that have taken place in Central Europe, the Eastern Balkans and Turkey can be extended to the Western Balkans.
There is a risk that Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro will fall even further behind their neighbours in their social and economic development. The widening of a development gap could jeopardise democratisation and regional stability.
ESI President Gerald Knaus and Senior Fellow Minna Järvenpää outlined ESI's main proposals in their presentations:
- either to encourage all countries of the region, which have not yet done so, to submit an official EU membership application (as Turkey did in 1987 and Romania in 1995) - with the objective that on the 1st January 2007 all countries of the Western Balkans are also official candidates.
- or to change the existing draft EU commisssion "Proposal for a Council Regulation Establishing an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA)" by making all five components of EU assistance in 2007 - 2013 (including regional development, human resources development and rural development) available to both candidate and potential candidate countries.
In essence this would mean that the European Commission would become the lead international actor in Belgrade, Pristina, Sarajevo, and Tirana. NDPs (National Development Plans) would be required from all countries; and the factual difference between candidates and potential candidates would largely disappear.