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12th December 2020

Western Balkans Summit 2020

Sofia, Bulgaria

Interpretation in English and Bulgarian will be provided.

For the conference details, please register HERE.



10:00 – 10:30

Official opening of the Western Balkans Summit 

  • Angel Dzhambazki MEP; Vice President of New Direction Foundation

Keynote Speech

  • Ekaterina Zaharieva - Foreign Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria


10:30 – 11:30

Panel I
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?


  • Jan Surotchak; Director, Transatlantic Strategy, International Republican Institute (US)
  • Jacqueline Dow; Head, Partnership West, Political Affairs and Security Policy Division, NATO HQ (BE)
  • Charlie Weimers; MEP, Swedish Democrats (ECR-SE)
  • Astrit Zemaj; Ambassador, Chargé d'Affaires, Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo in Brussels (BE)
  • Moderator: Angel Dzhambazki; MEP, VMRO-BND (ECR-BG)



Keynote Speech

  • Mariya Gabriel; European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth


12:00 - 13:00

Panel II:
Foreign Interference and Disinformation in the Western Balkans

At the geographic and political cross-roads of Europe, the Western Balkans is one of the most at risk of the hostile influence of autocratic powers such as Russia, China, Iran, and others. The European Union and the United States, long champions of the democratic will of the region’s citizens, find themselves supporting a population under constant threat in Economic, Political, Social, and Informational spheres of life. With an increased likelihood of new regulatory frameworks from the European Union and others attempting to strengthen resilience against hostile influence, there is a need to also discuss the potential adverse consequences misguided regulations may have.


  • Milan Jovanović; Analyst, Digital Forensic Research Center (ME)
  • Ruslan Stefanov; Director, Economic Program, Centre for the Study of Democracy (BG)
  • Ivana Karaskova; China Research Fellow & Project Coordinator; Association for International Affairs (CZ)
  • Amer Kapetanović; Head of Political Department, Regional Cooperation Council (BA)
  • Moderator: Anna Fotyga; MEP, Law and Justice (ECR-PL)


13:00 – 14:00



14:00 – 15:00

Panel III
Countering Antisemitism in the Western Balkans

Seventy-five years since the Shoah in which 6 million European Jews perished, antisemitism is once again on the rise. With the support of the US Department of State, IRI’s Beacon Project applied its effective monitoring methodology to study antisemitic narratives throughout the Western Balkan. The panel will present the research and findings as well as discuss the broader issue of antisemitism in the region.  


  • Bert-Jan Ruissen; MEP, Reformed Political Party SGP (ECR-NL)
  • Joanna Rohozinska; Regional Program Director, Transatlantic Strategy, International Republican Institute (BE)
  • Hrvoje Cvijanović; Assistant Professor, University of Zagreb (HR)
  • Moderator: Alexander Sidi; Member of Parliament of Bulgaria, VMRO-BND (ECR-BG)



Keynote Speech

  • Krasimir Bogdanov; Member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria, Vice-Chairman of Foreign Policy Committee VMRO-BND, (ECR-BG)


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.


  • Stefan Andonovski; Chairman of the research and Analytical Center and Member of the Executive Committee of VMRO-DPMNE (MK)
  • Miloš Nikolić; President, Libertarian Club-Libek (RS)
  • Milan Đaković; Chairman, Youth Branch, Civic Movement – United Reform Action (ME)
  • Amir Vcra; Municipal Councilor, Sarajevo (BA)
  • Juela Hamati; President, European Democracy Youth Network – EDYN (AL)
  • Krystian Szkwarek; ECR liaison officer in Bulgaria (ECR-BG)
  • Moderator: Jason Worlledge; Resident Program Director, Transatlantic Strategy, International Republican Institute (PL)



Keynote Speech:

  • Krasimir Karakachanov; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Defence of the Republic of Bulgaria

Closing remarks of the New Direction Western Balkans Summit

  • Angel Dzhambazki MEP; Vice President of New Direction Foundation

Western Balkans Summit 2020