Aug. 26, 2015, Vienna -- Civil society leaders came together in Vienna for an important Civil Society Forum, ahead of the Western Balkans Summit Vienna 2015, to organize and prepare for their chance to voice their concerns and ask for support from the heads of state attending the major international event this week.
CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac and Project Manager Antonis Hadjiyannakis attended the Summit Forum, as the Center plays a major role in Civil Society in the Balkans and beyond through its education and media programmes. CDRSEE's current affairs talk show "Okruzenje" ("Vicinities") will tape a special edition after the Summit, with the Prime Ministers of both Serbia and Albania as guests, along with the general secretary of the Regional Cooperation Council, Goran Svilanovic.
The prominent themes of the Civil Society Summit were regional cooperation, freedom of the media and the creation of jobs and general prosperity. The speakers noted progress, however, just in the fact that such a diverse group could come together in a positive atmosphere and vow cooperation.
"This scene ... wasn't possible even a year ago," Albanian Prime Minister Ed Rama said as the discussion got underway.
The civil society leaders met ahead of the larger Western Balkans Summit Vienna 2015, the most important event of the year for the region when leaders from the Western Balkans countries and the European Union meet to discuss progress in EU enlargement, regional cooperation and other key areas. This year, civil society was given a prominent role, as governments turn to the organizations for dealing with ongoing issues in the region.
Franz Karl Prüller, Chairman of the Board of the ERSTE Foundation, kicked off the forum with moving remarks and positive motivation about the future of the region.
Guests on the panel included Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania; Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister of Serbia; Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations; Igor Lukšić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Montenegro; and Igor Crnadak, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Civil Society representatives included Ardian Hackaj, Director of the public policy platform Shtetiweb at the Cooperation and Development Institute; Meliha Bajramović, Coordinator of Plenum Zenica; Faik Ispahiu, Director and Executive Producer of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and Internews; Dona Kosturnova, Executive Director of the Youth Educational Forum; Dejan Milovac, Director of the Center for Investigations and Deputy Director of MANS; and Aleksandar Simurdić, Secretary General of the European Movement, Local Council Novi Sad, Serbia.
The discussion was moderated by Ivan Vejvoda, Senior Vice President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
The Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Summit 2015 is the joint initiative of ERSTE Foundation, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Karl Renner Institute, in close cooperation with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.