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6th-8th December 2019

Western Balkans Summit 2019

National Palace of Culture - Sofia, Bulgaria

10:00 – 11:00

Official opening of the Western Balkans Summit 

  • Angel Dzhambazki MEP, Vice President of New Direction Foundation

Keynote Speeches

  • Mariya Gabriel - European Commissioner for Research, Innovation, Education, Culture and Youth 
  • Neno Dimov - Minister of Environment and Water of the Republic of Bulgaria


11:00 – 12:00

Panel I
Regional Cooperation and Security in the Western Balkans 

The Balkans have always been at the crossroads of continents and prone to threats for the security in the region. The migration influx into the European Union that started in 2015 showed the flows in the security measures in the region allowing for thousands of illegal border crossings. Despite the efforts made by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the accession of Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and soon North Macedonia to NATO, problems and threats to security persist. 


  • H.E. Nataliya Apostolova, EU Ambassador to Kosovo, European External Action Service 
  • Robert Pszczel, Senior Officer for Russia and the Western Balkans, NATO 
  • Vesselin Valkanov, Ambassador, Head of Liaison-Office in Brussels, Regional Cooperation Council 
  • Dita Nowicka, Senior Frontex Liaison Officer to Bulgaria 
  • Nikolay Oblakoff, Founder and Chief Editor of the right-wing media platform "Conservative.bg" 
  • (moderator) Martin Filipov, European Conservatives and Reformists Group, European Parliament 


12:00 – 13:00

Panel II
Strengthening Transatlantic (Re) Engagement in the Western Balkans 

From investments, energy experts to information campaigns, authoritarian actors continue to engage in campaigns of influence that corrode the already fragile democracies of the Western Balkans. What is the transatlantic community doing to support the strengthening of the Western Balkans’ democracies, and what are the areas that require additional dynamism? 


  • Tihomira Doncheva; Independent Researcher 
  • Krasimir Bogdanov; Member of the Bulgarian National Assembly, VMRO-BND 
  • Elena Poptodorova; former Ambassador of Bulgaria to the United States and Vice President of the Atlantic Treaty Association 
  • Georgi Harizanov; Political Analyst and Member of the Institute for Right-wing Politics 
  • Teodor Dimokenchev; Political Analyst and Columnist for the "Conservative.bg" 
  • (moderator) Brady Hills; Senior Programme Officer, International Republican Institute 

Keynote Speech 

  • Nikolay Prodanov - Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Bulgaria



Lunch buffet


14:00 – 15:00

Panel III
Exploiting Social Fissures in the Western Balkans 

Despite being clichéd, the Western Balkans is the cross-roads of Europe where East, West, and South meet. This has created a dynamic region with rich social diversity that represents the breadth of European culture. However, the strength of this diversity can also be exploited with social inequality, nationalism, ethnic tensions, and other social fissures being used to promote divisive interests. The panel’s aim is to candidly discuss the existing social fissures and what is currently being done to address them. 


  • Olga Deutsch; Vice-President, NGO Monitor 
  • Gjergj Murra; Executive Director, Western Balkans Fund 
  • Ruslan Stefanov; Director (Economic Programme); Centre for the Study of Democracy 
  • Milen Mihov; Member of the Bulgarian National Assembly, VMRO-BND 
  • Chris Kostov; International Relations Program Lead at Schiller International University Madrid 
  • (moderator) Krystian Szkwarek; Political Analyst for the "Conservative.bg”, ECR Group


15:00 – 15:30

Coffee break


15:30 - 16:30

Panel IV
Future of the Western Balkans: A Young Political Leader’s Roundtable 

With continued challenges of emigration and brain-drain, talent-management and the empowerment of a future generation of leaders is essential for the success of the Western Balkan countries. This panel will bring together young political leaders and alumni of IRI programmes in the Western Balkans to discuss current challenges facing the region, and their visions for the future direction. 


  • Malik Garabija; Minister (Sarajevo Cantonal Government), Social Democratic Party 
  • Pedja Mitrovic; City of Belgrade Councillor, Freedom and Justice Party 
  • Nemanja Radojevic; Member of the Serbian Parliament, Modern Serbia Party 
  • Valbon Limani; Chief-of-Cabinet for the Mayor, Municipality of Gostivar, “Alliance for Albanians” 
  • Toncho Kraevski; Political Analyst and editor for the "Conservative.bg" 
  • (moderator) Igor Merheim-Eyre; Programme Officer, International Republican Institute


16:30 – 17:00

Closing session of the New Direction Western Balkans Summit 

Keynote Speech 

  • Ekaterina Zaharieva - Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria 

Closing Remarks 

  • Angel Dzhambazki MEP, Vice President of New Direction Foundation



Gala Dinner of the Western Balkans Summit 

Restaurant Shtastlivetsa, bul. "Vitosha" 27, 1000 Sofia Center

Western Balkans Summit 2019