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Roundtable meeting on challenges facing the Balkans region

On the 5th July 2016, BGIPU hosted a roundtable on the Balkans, bringing together Members from both Houses and Ambassadors from relevant countries in the region. In order to allow for an open debate the roundtable was held under Chatham House Rule.

Chaired by BGIPU Vice-Chair and Foreign Affairs Committee Member Mike Gapes MP, participants exchanged views and concerns on the challenges the recent migration flows have presented to the Balkan countries and the threat posed by extremism and terrorist groups such as Daesh. Members appreciated the opportunity to hear from the countries’ representatives present about the current political situation in their respective countries, in particular how they were addressing issues such as corruption and justice reform as well as the risks of ethnic tensions and radicalization.

In light of the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union participants also discussed its impact on UK relations with the region, and Members from both Houses assured Ambassadors that leaving the EU would not reduce parliamentarians’ interest in the Balkans. On behalf of the BGIPU, Mike Gapes also assured Ambassadors of the group’s commitment to work with parliaments in this key priority region with further planned inward and outward visits, including hosting a Speaker-led delegation from Albania later in the year.

As the Ambassadors sitting around the table represented EU member states as well as official and potential candidate countries, the discussion also broadened on the future of the EU as an institution, the pace of its integration, but also its influence in the Balkans, in particular with regards to the security and stability of the region given the historic and in many places still unresolved tensions.

Parliamentarians commented on how useful the roundtable had been not only to receive the latest updates on developments in the Balkans, but also to have the opportunity for an informed and frank discussion with representatives from the region on the future of Europe, and BGIPU will continue to host similar events in the future.