The Western Balkans and the EU: Reassessing the relationship

invitation only · Arkadiankatu 23 H (courtyard), 2nd floor, Helsinki · 19.09.2019 09:00 - 11:00

invitation only

The European future of the Western Balkans (WB) is increasingly uncertain. While the countries of the WB have been promised a European perspective, conditions for becoming part of the EU have become much stricter compared to previous enlargement rounds. At the same time, the EU’s appetite for accepting new members has decreased due to numerous internal factors. As a result, the EU’s enlargement policy seems to be stuck in limbo.

This seminar will reflect on the current state of play with regard to the advancement of the Western Balkans in the EU accession process. What are the potential benefits of the EU’s expansion to this region? What kinds of options are possible for making the accession process more effective? What is the role of the enlargement in the context of wider debates on the future of Europe?

Video recording of the panel discussion below.


Kaisa Penny

Director, Kalevi Sorsa Foundation

Kaisa Penny is the Director of the Kalevi Sorsa Foundation. Sorsa Foundation is a Finnish think tank and a democracy support organisation. Penny holds a degree in Politics and International Relations and has a long working history in the fields of European and national politics having worked in social democratic party organisations both in Finland and at EU level before joining Sorsa Foundation at 2018.

Milena Lazarević

Programme Director, European Policy Centre – Belgrade, Serbia

Milena Lazarevic is one of the founders and Programme Director at the European Policy Centre (CEP), independent, non-profit think-tank based in Belgrade, Serbia. Milena is a proven expert in the field of public administration reform, in Serbia and in the Western Balkan region. Between May 2014 and March 2015, she acted as the Special Adviser to the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of public administration reform. As a consultant, she has worked for SIGMA/OECD, Regional School for Public Administration (ReSPA), the World Bank and several major international consultancy companies. Before co-founding CEP, Lazarevic worked for almost six years as a civil servant in the Serbian administration, first in the EU Integration Office of the Serbian Government (SEIO) and later in the Ministry of Public Administration. She is a Soros scholar and has an MA degree in European studies from the College of Europe and an MA in European Administrative Law from Belgrade University.

Sotiraq Hroni

Executive Director, Institute for Democracy and Mediation – Tirana, Albania

Sotiraq Hroni, former Albanian diplomat, and adviser to Albanian Prime Minister (1997) and to the President of the Republic (1997-1999), is the founder and executive director since 2000 of the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM), a non-profit organization in Albania. He is responsible for overall management and development of the organisation, which operates in different program areas such as governance, security, policy hub, local governance and integrated development. He has also led the organization’s efforts to build efficient cooperation and partnerships with public and private institutions, networking and fundraising. His continuous commitments stand with offering relevance to IDM’s strategic development with the country’s development priorities.

Keijo Karjalainen

Deputy Director, Unit for South-Eastern Europe, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Keijo Karjalainen is Deputy Director for the Unit for South-Eastern Europe at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. As the Team Leader for the Western Balkans he has gained an in-depth understanding for the EU enlargement agenda and regional developments. He also follows closely domestic affairs and EU and bilateral relations, particularly in Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia. Previously he has served in the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C. (2013–2016), as well in London (2009–2013) and in the Permanent representation of Finland to the EU in Brussels (2006).


Emma Hakala

Leading Researcher

Climate security, environmental security, Western Balkan, post-conflict cooperation