Spotlight on the Western Balkans

The Hague Institute’s mandate is global, with many of our projects focused on mitigating the risk of conflict and institution-building in developing countries. However, promoting human rights and establishing and supporting the rule of law is relevant in Europe as well. In 2014, the Institute expanded its programmatic efforts to address European issues related to global justice and EU enlargement, particularly in the Western Balkans.

These efforts are led by Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov who is the former Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia to the United States and the Netherlands, and the Institute’s Distinguished Fellow. Having begun his career as a human rights officer in the Macedonian Foreign Ministry, Dimitrov has gained extensive experience in public service in foreign and security policy, international dispute settlement, and conflict resolution.

To support democratic governance and foster stability in the Western Balkans, the Institute has prioritized monitoring, capacity building and policy-relevant research as its core activities. In addition, we have convened experts from throughout the region to address rule of law, human rights and integration issues in Southeast Europe. Insights from these discussions have fed into our research, the most recent one being an overview of the criminal justice chain in the six Western Balkan countries.

News and Commentary

Macedonia Steps Backward
New York Times Op-Ed by Distinguished Fellow Nikola Dimitrov

THE HAGUE — Last year, I turned down an ambassadorial posting to Moscow and ended my 18-year diplomatic career. Serving my government and my country, Macedonia, had become very different things, and I felt there wasn’t much I could do from within to make a difference. Recent events have only reinforced this view. Once praised as a success story in a region riven by war, Macedonia is in crisis and urgently needs European Union intervention. Read the full article

Video: The EU and The Ongoing Political Crisis in Macedonia: Influence, Involvement, Prospects
In a debate organized by the European Policy Institute in Skopje, Distinguished Fellow Nikola Dimitrov elaborates on “Options for Change and Possible Engagement of the EU”. The talk is in Macedonian.

Post-Big Bang Expansion, Is EU Overcorrecting with The Western Balkans?
The perspective of joining the European family has proven to be the most effective mobilizing factor to stabilize and reform the Balkans. It has replaced the dark scenario of conflicts sparked by efforts to redraw borders along ethnic linesm, and has undoubtedly been the EU’s most powerful geopolitical instrument. This is most evident in the brokered Belgrade-Pristina agreement. Before the process reached the point of no return, however, the enlargement policy has been challenged, accession hopes dangerously watered down and the door slammed shut, for now.

Europe Should Dare to Think Big Again
In the Balkans, the appeal of the European narrative proved its pulling force in resolving one of the last war and peace issues in April 2013, with the Serbia – Kosovo agreement. It is clear that the EU is the only show in town for all countries of the Western Balkans. There is simply no realistic alternative for stability and prosperity to the European integration process.

Albania-EU: Keeping the Promise Alive
In an article for the EuroActive Network, Nikola Dimitrov addresses Albania’s EU candidate status with Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama. When asked during a recent visit to The Hague Institute for Global Justice, the Prime Minister could stressed the importance of keeping the ‘European dream’ alive in the Balkans. “The Balkans can easily become what they were …,” he warned. “But we should not be let in because we are weak,” he clarified. Responsibilities, Rama contended, nevertheless fell on both sides: “When we do our homework, EU [member states] should also do theirs.”

Western Balkans and the EU: The case of Albania’s Long Road to its European Destiny
On 26 May 2014, The Hague Institute welcomed the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama to The Hague Institute to discuss “Western Balkans and the EU: The Case of Albania’s Long Road to its European Destiny” as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series.

Convening Power

  • Making a Difference: European Union and the Rule of Law in the Western Balkans
    Last December, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and the European Commission’s Directorate-General responsible for enlargement hosted a half-day high level panel discussion to discuss EU Enlargement.
  • Finishing the Job in the Balkans
    The Hague Institute featured a panel discussion on the state of play in the Balkans and the way forward. The event provided insights from Europe, the United States, the Netherlands and the region.
  • Distinguished Speaker Series: Edi Rama
    On 26 May 2014, The Hague Institute for Global Justice hosted H.E. Mr. Edi Rama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Albania, as part of its ongoing Distinguished Speaker Series. Mr. Rama’s topic was titled, “Western Balkans and the EU: The case of Albania’s Long Road to its European Destiny”.

Further Reading

Abandoned Church of St Nicolas at Mavrovo National Park

Past initiative: Primary Education in Macedonia

The Hague Institute for Global Justice, with the support of the Embassy of Switzerland in Macedonia is leading a six-month research project that will…


Active: Distinguished Speaker Series

The Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS) showcases eminent practitioners in international affairs and is the centerpiece of the Institute’s high-level engagement with practitioners and academics in the city…


Past Initiative: The Hague Approach

Justice can be a scarce commodity in countries affected by conflicts. The Hague Institute draws lessons from experiences of post-conflict rebuilding activities in Afghanistan…


Rule of Law

The Rule of Law Program fosters accountability and trust in societies in transition by supporting effective formal and informal justice institutions. The overarching goal…