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2023 Balkan Leadership Conference: Summary





Skopje, North Macedonia—The latest Balkan Leadership Conference took place in the North Macedonian capital on October 14, 2023. It was organized by the Europe-Middle East branch of UPF in partnership with the Podgorica Club, an organization founded in 2019 by former presidents of Southeast Europe.


The current president of North Macedonia and 10 former heads of state and government from the six Western Balkan nations, plus Croatia and Slovakia, attended the event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Skopje hotel. The theme of the conference was “Western Balkans Integration into the European Union: Perspectives and Challenges.”


The first session, “Perspectives on Western Balkans Integration into the EU,” was moderated by Jacques Marion, the UPF co-chair for Europe and the Middle East.


H.E. Stevo Pendarovski, the current president of North Macedonia, who previously attended the UPF-organized Southeast Europe Peace Summit in Tirana, Albania, in 2019, gave the opening remarks.


Five former presidents—H.E. Branko Crvenkovski of North Macedonia (2004-2009); H.E. Alfred Moisiu of Albania (2002-2007), currently the Balkans chairman of UPF’s International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP); H.E. Stjepan Mesić of Croatia (2000-2010); H.E. Mladen Ivanić, president of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014-2018); and H.E. Fatmir Sejdiu of Kosovo (2006-2010)—and two former prime ministers—H.E. Mikuláš Dzurinda of Slovakia (1998-2006), currently president of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies; and H.E. Igor Lukšić of Montenegro (2010-2012)—attended the first session.


The second session, on the theme “Perspectives on Peace and Reconciliation in the Western Balkans,” was moderated by Malinka Ristevska Jordanova, a former director of the European Policy Institute.


The session included Hon. Talat Xhaferi, the president of North Macedonia’s parliament; Hon. Slavjanka Petrovska, North Macedonia’s minister of defense; H.E. Filip Vujanović, president of the Podgorica Club, the conference’s co-organizer, and president of Montenegro (2003-2018); H.E. Rexhep Meidani, president of Albania (1997-2002); and H.E. Mirko Cvetković, prime minister of Serbia (2008-2012). Hon. Dr. Werner Fasslabend, a former Austrian minister of defense and the president of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, gave a powerful concluding speech.


The third and last session, dedicated to youth leaders under the theme “Policies and Projects to Foster Regional Cooperation in Youth and EU Integration,” was moderated by Ejona Icka, secretary general of UPF-Kosovo.


It featured Hon. Fisnike Bekteshi Shaqiri, a member of North Macedonia’s parliament; Naumche Mojsovski, director of North Macedonia’s Agency for Youth and Sport; Albert Hani, secretary general of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office; Aleksandar Ružin, former adviser to the prime minister of North Macedonia; Katerina Jakimovska, senior event officer, Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies; and Dona Kosturanova, the North Macedonian director of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.


Dr. Michael Balcomb, the UPF senior adviser for Europe and the Middle East, spoke on the need for spiritual values, thus concluding the session and the conference.


By Jacques Marion, co-chair, UPF-EUME, and Alan Sillitoe, UPF-EUME
Saturday, October 14, 2023

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