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  • European Talks

    If you get tired of reading, then have a listen to our podcast. European Talks podcast is a short form conversation that aims to untangle difficult questions on various topics related to Serbia’s relations with the EU and its member states, by talking to experts, diplomats, and other relevant actors. Whether you are a researcher, a politician, or just genuinely curious about the topic, European Talks podcast will provide you with valuable ideas, answers as well as new questions.

    What the fight for a healthy environment in a “captured state” looks like

    In the first episode for the MladiRini podcast, Mirko Popovic, the Program Director for the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI), recollects how the fight against the construction of a gondola on Kalemegdan Park, the largest park and most important historical monument in Serbia, was “a painstaking, years-long struggle against every argument”. On the 23rd of March 2021, the Administrative Court annulled the construction permit.  He believes the ruling is a prime example that contradicts the widely accepted narrative that no change can be made. “No one will give you your rights and freedoms willingly”, especially in a country that struggles with dictatorship and corruption by the political elite. “Corruption is the biggest air pollutant”, stresses Popovic, reminding that so many hydroelectric power plants are built illegally across Serbia. The latest research done by the KOMS organization shows that every year the youth in Serbia keeps losing trust in the government institutions. For Popovic, this is a very personal issue, as in the last few years RERI hired young professionals who were at the very start of their careers. Today, when he feels hopeless, the very young people who are at his organization are crucial when it comes to environmental or rule of law matters. However, he understands that some may have lost hope in changing anything in a country that is plagued with corruption. He cites an example of Topli Do, a village in Serbia, with a population of approximately 30 people. Around a hundred people protested the construction of mini hydroelectric power plants in April 2019. The protest was composed of many locals, but the heart of the protest, according to Popovic, was the young man who was born in the village and comes back every winter to support the older population. Popovic further stresses that if anyone understands the phrase “freedom is taken, not given” are the youth. Even though the government tries very hard to convince the population that what should be a public good, is in the ownership of the state, young people have a personal connection with the parks and monuments that are currently threatened by illegal licenses for construction Being a candidate country for the European Union (EU), Serbia must meet various conditions that specifically relate to the rule of law, with one of them, Chapter 27, concerning the environment. Environmental protection is expensive and so often government officials reiterate that Serbia does not have an efficient budget, so that for example, air pollution can be solved. Popovic firmly believes that the protection will be even more expensive, unless the corruption that is in the government that decides the state of our environment is gone. Stabilization and association agreement, a treaty between the European Communities and the Republic of Serbia, underlines the responsibility of both parties. For Popovic, the role of the EU, as a political and economic authority, is crucial in calling for transparency and responsibility when it comes to “spending EU taxpayers' money”. Furthermore, Popovic argues that the leaders of the Western Balkan countries that signed the Sofia Declaration for the Green Agenda, in November 2020, do not know the contents of the declaration. “Unless we establish an effective system of control and punishment of those who misuse public funds, the idea that investing in the environment is worthwhile will not be realized”, points out Popovic. Lastly, from his experience from when he was young, Mirko Popovic believes young people “[…] should not trust anyone and need to think critically” about everything they read in the media.  As a message to them, he also emphasizes the importance of solidarity; “Whatever you do pay attention to the person next to you and pay attention to the public goods that belong to you”.

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    Corrosive Capital, Environment & External Actors: Assessing the Western Balkans

    The issues of corruption, the rise of external actors, and environmental neglect are becoming increasingly present in the Western Balkans. We are joined by Tena Prelec, a research fellow at Oxford University, a research associate at the LSE, and a member of BiEPAG, with whom we talk about whether and how all of these issues are interconnected.
     

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    Armenia and Azerbaijan: From Conflict to Ceasefire

    After a six-week-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a ceasefire deal has been agreed upon and came into effect on 10 November 2020. This podcast aims to shed light on whether and how peace can be sustained in the next years, as well as to explore the potential of the EU's post-conflict efforts. Discussants: Benyamin Poghosyan - Chairman of the Centre for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Yerevan - Former director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the Armenian Ministry of Defence - Graduated at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Anar Jahangirli - Consultant in public affairs and communication - Former diplomat from Azerbaijan, with the focus on NK - Graduated at Harvard

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    Imperatives for the Biden Administration: What can the US, the World, and Serbia Expect?

    Our guest was Mr John Allen, a retired four-star general and the President of the Brookings Institution, one of the most influential think tanks in the world. Although the outgoing President Trump continues to claim that the US elections were rigged, President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take his position in the White House, with the aim to diminish divisions in the US. As the world and Europe have high hopes for the Biden administration, we discussed what can be expected in the next four years.  
     

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    Work-life balance in the EU – Benefits of becoming a member state

    Following the European Commission’s 2017 Proposal for a Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers, the new EU Work-life Balance Directive was passed by the European Parliament in April 2019. The aim of this Directive is to “improve families’” access to family leave and flexible work arrangements’, and ultimately “contribute to an increase in women’s employment and families’ economic stability.” Moreover, it introduces a set of legislative and non-legislative measures, i.e. policy measures, designed to modernise the existing EU frameworks in the work-life balance area. How much more funds will the countries of the Western Balkans receive, once they become members, having in mind that our closest neighbour, Croatia, receives 10 times more from the EU for this area? We talked with Ms Katarina Ivanković Knežević, Director in the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the European Commission, former State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Pensions of Croatia.
     

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    Armenia and Azerbaijan at the same table: an attempt to approach opposing positions

    A conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno Karabakh, a territory which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but de facto ruled by the Armenian majority living there, re-erupted a couple of days ago. In order to get the full picture of what is happening on the ground, and to see what can Europe to prevent the conflict from escalating, we have invited two prominent experts, one from Armenia and the other from Azerbaijan. Discussants: Benyamin Poghosyan - Chairman of the Centre for Political and Economic Strategic Studies in Yerevan - Former director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the Armenian Ministry of Defence - Graduated at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Anar Jahangirli - Consultant in public affairs and communication - Former diplomat from Azerbaijan, with the focus on NK - Graduated at Harvard

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    Winds of change in Montenegro: What to expect in the next period?

    The recent elections in Montenegro suggest that major changes could soon take place in the country in the Western Balkans. Montenegro has opened all chapters in the process of negotiations with the EU, but how far has the enlargement process really progressed and what can be expected in the coming period when it comes to the EU accession process, but also with the political climate in the country? We spoke with Stevo Muk, President of the Managing Board of the Institute Alternative, Podgorica-based think tank.

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    En route to a better public administration: Why bottom-up pressure is necessary

    Welcome to the first episode of the WeBER podcast series of European Talks podcast, a new communication tool in the regional WeBER initiative context. Each podcast episode will be devised around a relevant public administration reform and civil society related topic in the region. With this series, we mainly target civil society, experts, government officials and external interested audience (rather than public). Highly conversational in nature, it is available in video format on WeBER portal - www.par-monitor.org. In the first episode, our guest is Gregor Virant, Head of SIGMA (Support for Improvement in Governance and Management) is a joint initiative of the OECD and the European Union and former Minister of Public Administration of Slovenia. Milena Lazarević, an expert on this topic, of the European Policy Centre - CEP Programme Director and WeBER initiative Team Leader, talked with him about the SIGMA principles of public administration, the WeBER initiative and why civil society must monitor and involve in the public administration reform process. Useful links: www.sigmaweb.org www.par-monitor.org www.europeanpolicy.org

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    Advancing Albania’s road to EU: Side with agendas and ambitions

    In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the Council of the EU gave the green light to the opening of accession talks with Albania. What are the expectations regarding the next steps, given the current pandemic restrictions? Can the revised enlargement methodology lead to a more effective accession process? What is the current political climate in this country? In this episode, we talked to Gjergji Vurmo, programme director of Institute for Democracy and Mediation – IDM, Tirana-based think tank.

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    What does the future of EU accession process hold? The case of North Macedonia

    In this episode, we talked about the current political situation in North Macedonia, EU sentiments of its citizens, and about the strengths and risks of the revised accession methodology for the Western Balkans. Our guest is Dr Simonida Kacarska, director of the European Policy Institute - EPI in Skopje, North Macedonia.

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