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Conference on Regional Cooperation in the Field of Justice and Security

19 September 2014; Hotel Tirana International

With the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Institute for Democracy and Mediation organized the conference on “Regional Cooperation in the Field of Justice and Security” at Hotel Tirana International on 19 September 2014. The event falls under the framework of the Security Research Forum: “Belgrade-Pristine-Tirana”, a three-year based joint initiative of three partner organizations: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), Kosovar Center for Security Studies (KCSS), and the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM).

The conference aimed at analyzing the present level of cooperation in the field of justice and security between Albania and Serbia, in view of countries’ aspiration to joining the European Union.

Considering that there exist several initiatives and platforms promoting regional cooperation among Western Balkan countries, bilateral cooperation between Albania and Serbia appears to be underdeveloped yet. This is primarily due to dispute over Kosovo’s status, along with some historical distrust legacy.  Particularly underdeveloped has remained the cooperation in the security field, whereas other areas, such as trade, energy, transport, etc., have somehow experienced a faster progression.

The conference panelists included Sokol Dervishaj, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; Elona Gjebrea, Deputy Minister of Interior; Ilirian Xhezo, Director at the Ministry of European Integration, Lisen Bashkurti, former ambassador and President of the Albanian Diplomatic Academy, and Foto Duro, IDM researcher.

The panelists focused on the necessity to reinforce regional peace as an essential element for regional prosperity and cooperation. As Albania and Serbia face common challenges, such as organized and transnational crime, terrorism, etc., both countries should move towards the reinforcement of bilateral relations, leaving behind the historical legacy and embracing and building a constructive dialogue, which lies upon the present reality.  Moreover, dialogue, comprehension, and acceptation of today’s reality will contribute to the overall integration process of the Western Balkan countries to the European Union. A stable and secure region leads to higher attractiveness of foreign direct investments and mutual benefits for all the citizens.

Furthermore, there is a necessity for both Albania and Serbia to ‘get rid of’ the existing phobias and self-phobias, as underlined by Mr. Bashkurti, which are noticeable mainly in three dimensions: fear of knowledge and inherited hate and hostility. All these dimensions derive from the lack of communication and dialogue among the citizens. To date, the Albanian-Serbian relations exhibit a lame and fragmented public diplomacy, where the rhetorical propaganda has led to a high level of skepticism. Lack of high level dialogue between the heads of the governments of both countries, since 1946, has created a huge vacuum, which in turn has influenced the signing of bilateral instruments in the judicial sector. Every dialogue conducted in the frame of foreign policy should be concluded with the signing of judicial instruments, which should both formalize the relationship and contribute to the achievement of concrete results.

In conclusion, the panelists acknowledged the contribution of civil society organizations in the revitalization of the relations between Albanians and Serbs. Activities conducted by CSOs so far have brought to the fore not only their indispensible role in this process, but also other potentials which remain to be exploited.