IRI Southeastern Europe Democracy Summit: Unified Support for Western Balkan, Ukrainian Integration into Europe

  • Amila Karacic

The International Republican Institute (IRI) held its fifth annual Southeastern Europe Democracy Summit (SEE|DEM) in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday, 16 April, where policymakers and thought leaders from the Western Balkans, Ukraine, the European Union (EU) and the United States came together in support of building resilient democracies and greater Euro-Atlantic integration.   

Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Várhelyi, Minister Adea Pirdeni from Albania, Minister Maida Gorčević from Montenegro, Ukrainian Mayors Oleksandr Syenkevych of Mykolaiv and Yuriy Bova of Trostianets, and IRI President Daniel Twining took part in the summit.

Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova gives a keynote speech at SEE|DEM.

EU and NATO integration dominated the discussions at the summit. Commissioner Várhelyi said, “There is a wake-up call that if Europe does not deliver enlargement for its own sake, for its own interest, Europe might run the risk of losing long-term peace, stability and security.” 

Vice President Jourová also commented on Ukraine’s European integration, underscoring the value of EU membership to the next generation of Ukrainians stating, “Young people in Ukraine want to enter the EU, not because of the standard of living and nice cars, but because of the freedoms and perspective it brings.”  

A recent IRI poll of six countries in the Western Balkans that was released ahead of the summit showed broad support for joining the European Union (EU) and strong majorities who view Russia’s war on Ukraine as unjustified.  

IRI President Daniel Twining expressed IRI’s support for Western Balkan leaders as they work towards European accession saying,  “In the face of regional challenges, our collective resolve must be to fortify the foundations of democratic pluralism and good governance, to root out corruption at every level, to advance ethnic reconciliation, and to ensure the seamless integration of states into the fabric of international institutions.” 

On EU-enlargement for the Western Balkans, Várhelyi went on to say, “Our answer to the Western Balkans is a clear ‘yes.’ And it has been made very clear for them from the very beginning of 2019, and now we are working even harder to be ready to welcome them.”

IRI President Daniel Twining with Oleksandr Syenkevych, Mayor of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, during a one-on-one discussion at SEE|DEM.

IRI’s Director for Europe, Paul McCarthy, stated “SEE|DEM underlines the importance of international cooperation in tackling the key issues of conflict prevention and democratic reform.” 

In its fifth year, SEE|DEM provides a unique platform for exchanges between policymakers, experts, journalists, and thought leaders from the Western Balkans, fostering much-needed multi-sector dialogue among leaders on the most pressing issues facing the region.  

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