The Working Group on the Western Balkans: Confronting Illegitimacy | Wilson Center
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The Working Group on the Western Balkans: Confronting Illegitimacy

The EU and the US agree that the long-term goal for the Western Balkans is European integration. For a variety of reasons, however, progress on this goal has stalled. This series aims at launching a discussion on the hurdles to enlargement in the Western Balkans, the tools available to various international actors in the region, and how these resources might best be applied to reach the goal of integration most efficiently. These meetings, therefore, address issues that are at the core of the making the Transatlantic relationship work.

Democracy and legitimacy are closely linked: democratic elections empower legitimate officials to run state institutions that operate within the rule of law. In the Western Balkans, however, there are multiple challenges to legitimate institutions including, parallel power structures, corruption, low confidence in the judiciary and contested elections, to name a few. The result is that it is difficult for civil society to pursue its goals through democratic institutions or elections, and individuals have a hard time seeking remedies through state courts.

The EU accession process is making a limited impact on improving legitimacy and democracy in the region. Working Group participants will discuss the sources of illegitimacy in the region and how the Transatlantic partners can work to improve the quality of democracy in the region.

9:45 Coffee

10:00am Meeting begins; Welcome and Introduction by Nida Gelazis, Senior Associate, European Studies

Discussion questions: How is the EU accession agenda and other international policy goals (such as the ICTY) undermined by nationalist rhetoric in the Western Balkans? How has the market transition created opportunities for elected leaders or political parties to capture state institutions or profit directly from privatization?

Introduction to the topic:

Jelena Subotic, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University

John Gould, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science, Colorado College


12:00 Lunch


1:00 How have internationally-driven policies to combat corruption and organized crime missed their mark? How can EU accession compete with internal incentives that support ‘business as usual’?

Introduction to the topic:

Timothy Donais, Associate Professor in the Department of Global Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University Stefan Popov, Executive Director, RiskMonitor Foundation

Whit Mason, Director of Political Risk Analysis, Pty, Ltd; Non-resident fellow of the Lowy Institute for International Policy and Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University


3:00 Meeting ends


Ambassador Robert Beecroft
U.S. Department of State

Mietek Boduszynski
U.S. Department of State

David Bosco
American University

Michael Dziedzic

Nida Gelazis
Wilson Center

John Gould
Colorado College

John Lampe
University of Maryland and WWICS Scholar

James O’Brien
Albright Stonebridge Group

Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch
Delegation of Austria to the OECD

Andrew Radin
MIT and WWICS Scholar

Dusan Reljic
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik

Robert Benjamin
National Democratic Institute

Ian Bond
British Embassy


Matt Palmer
U.S. Department of State

Timothy Donais
Wilfrid Laurier University

Sharon Fisher
IHS Global Insight

Gisella Gori
EU Delegation

James Hooper
Public International Law & Policy Group

Whit Mason
Australian National University

Ginta Palubinskas
George Mason University and WWICS Scholar

Stefan Popov
RiskMonitor Foundation

Akis Sakellariou

Kelsi Stine
Project on Justice in Times of Transition

Jelena Subotic
Georgia State University