Online roundtable discussions and online presentations were held on the 6 November 2020 in Szent-Györgyi Albert Agora, Szeged, on the constitutional issues related to the accession of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union. The conference was organized in cooperation with the University of Szeged, Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, International and Regional Studies Institute, "Europe Direct Szeged”, and the European Public Law Organization.
The online roundtable discussions consisted the morning session of the conference. Prof. Dr. László Trócsányi, professor at the University of Szeged, Faculty of Law and Member of the European Parliament; Szilvia Dr. Váradi Dr. Kertészne, assistant professor at Department of International Law and European Law, Faculty of Law, University of Szeged; Dr. Tamás Hoffmann, associate professor at the Institute of International Studies, Corvinus University of Budapest; Anna Orosz, researcher at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Economics; and Dr. Norbert Tóth, associate professor of the Department of International Law of the National University of Public Administration took part in the round table discussion. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Anikó Szalai, associate professor, Department of International Law and European Law, Faculty of Law, University of Szeged. The participants joined the discussion via Europe Direct Szeged's Facebook page, due to the restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conference’s welcome speech was held by Prof. Dr. László Trócsányi who pointed, first, the importance of the Western Balkans’ role in peace-keeping in Europe, from the historical, cultural, and political point of views. Professor continued his speech with an analysis of the European Union’s position to the Western Balkan countries. Professor stressed that the EU was to be in the role of keeping the Balkan countries together and suggested that the EU should have welcomed the accession negotiations in this sense.
Next, Szilvia Dr. Váradi Dr. Kertészné evaluated the EU’s enlargement procedure in frame of the related legislation and the legislation in practice. Her evaluation highlighted that the conditions identified for the third countries wishing to access to the EU had become stricter by time and most of the countries on the road to joining the EU yet are not in a position to fulfill them.
Moderator of the event, Dr. Anikó Szalai, stressed that a peaceful society could have only been built if we were confronted with the war crimes committed, if the sanctions were applied, and reconciliation was ensured. Afterwards, Dr. Tamás Hoffmann drew the picture of the current situation related to processing of war crimes in the region, specific to the Kosovo example. His speech concluded that Kosovo’s EU accession seemed complex since it involves many international actors and legal questions left on the table.
Anna Orosz analyzed each Western Balkans’ political, economic and social background together with the recent questions being discussed. Her presentation focused on the political obstacles to the accession process of the Western Balkans, as well as the issues guaranteeing the stability of the region. The researcher highlighted that the economic obstacles visible in this region significantly affected the countries’ efforts with meeting the Copenhagen criteria.
Dr. Norbert Tóth approached to this analysis from a specific topic that was the minority rights in Europe and in Western Balkans, and its effect on the accession talks. The morning roundtable session ended with the discussion among the experts, contribution to each others’ talks, as well as their answers to the several questions referred by the online participants.
The video of the morning session available only in Hungarian, here.
Afternoon session of the conference was dedicated to the presentations of the foreign experts which were held in an online platform. Prof. Dr. Martin Belov, University of Sofia „St. Kliment Ohridski”; Prof. Dr. Violeta Besirevic, Union University Law School Belgrade; Prof. Dr. Jorge Bacelar Gouveia, NOVA Law School of Lisbon; Prof. Dr. Rumen Stefanov, New Bulgarian University and the OSCE Human dimension expert; and Diomides Mavroyiannis, Economic Consultant at European Economics took part in the afternoon session.
In his presentation, Professor Martin Belov shared the Bulgarian experiences in accession to the EU from the constitutional point of view. He pointed the fact that the national identity is a factor affecting the countries’ political and constitutional identities that is regarding also to the Western Balkans historically known as authoritarian regimes. His presentation concluded with a suggestion for the EU institutions to take a role of creating an ideology of inclusiveness.
Professor Violeta Besirevic shared the Serbian perspectives on the country’s ongoing EU accession procedure. She identified the progresses as well as the challenges before Serbian accession to the EU, and evaluated the example of the current Serbian constitutional change in this sense.
Professor Jorge Bacelar Gouveia gave his talk on the foundations of the EU accession laid down in the EU law. He made a general evaluation on the conditions of accession to the EU and concluded that Portuguese example could serve as a source of inspiration to the Western Balkans on the procedure of embedding the EU core principles in their constitutions.
Professor Rumen Stefanov evaluated the prospectives of Western Balkans joining the EU based on several challenges. According to him, challenges related to internal problems in the candidate states, and the challenges in the EU and its institutions consisted the main problems in the accession talks between the EU and the Western Balkans. After evaluating each countries’ internal challenges, he listed the EU related challenges connecting with economic, migration, Schengen area, Brexit and the effect of COVID-19 related cases.
Economist Diomides Mavroyiannis shaped his talk around the economic dynamics of the accession that he explained it based on the game theory. In this talk, he referred to the EU’s unconditional economic support that forces adjustments which then contributes to the countries’ economic infrastructure. According to the expert, the EU’s financial support on the small businesses as well as the public institutions deemed positive, even though there are other actors contributing to the region financially and gaining some outputs in return.
All in all, both the morning and afternoon sessions of the conference were completed successfully, since the topics evaluated during the talks pointed the current issues regarding the EU enlargement in general, and the Western Balkans’ accession to the EU in specific.
Reported: Gizem Gültekin Várkonyi