2nd December 2023

Western Balkans Summit 2023

Sofia, Bulgaria

National Palace of Culture
Bulgaria Blvd, 1463 Ndk
Sofia, Bulgaria


Societal, political and cultural issues in the Western Balkans region have been in the spotlight of the New Direction foundation’s annual Western Balkans Summit for five years running. Recent developments such as the EU Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, as well as the series of conflicts in the neighbourhood mean that the Summit this year will be more relevant than ever.

Once again, the candidate countries are given a clear incentive to conduct reforms, which would enable them to fast track the accession process. The Euroepan Commission has proposed a €6 billion investment package, composed of €2 billion in grants and €4 billion in loans, on the condition of successful delivery of reforms. This is a new hope for the region.

At the same time, tensions are running high. The relations between Serbia and Kosovo are at an all-time high and elsewhere in the region governments are reluctant to conduct the necessary reforms. The consequences of the war in Ukraine, the conflicts in the Middle East and Azerbaijan, pressure continues to loom over the region. The region’s struggling economies continue to be particularly affected by the global inflation crisis and the brain drain. Media freedom and pluralism, seem to have given way to populism and disinformation. 

Understanding the challenges the Western Balkans face and coming up with long-term solutions are crucial as the region moves closer to the European Union. The Western Balkans Summit in Sofia has proved to be a much needed platform for the exchange of ideas and solutions between stakeholders and decision makers of the region.


Eastern European Time (+2 GMT)


Registration of participants

10:00 – 10:15

Official opening

  • Angel Dzhambazki MEP, Vice President of New Direction Foundation

Keynote speech

  • Toshko Yordanov, Member of the Bulgarian National Assembly, Chairman ITN

10:15 – 11:30

Panel I

The EU Enlargement process of the Western Balkans and the way forward

  • Ladislav Ilčić, MEP, Hrvatski suverenisti (ECR-HR)
  • Ryszard Czarnecki, MEP, Law and Justice (ECR-PL)
  • Maciej Tyburski, Expert Public Diplomacy and Studies of the East, Warsaw Institute
  • Teuta Vodo, Former Deputy Minister of Justice, Associate Professor Universite’ Paris Cite’ and Sciences Po Paris, Researcher IPSE
  • Slaven Raguž; MP, Hrvatska Republikanska Stranka (BH)
  • Milena Milotinova, journalist and presenter of the ‘Brussels 1 TV Show”, Bulgaria On Air
  • Moderator: Angel Dzhambazki MEP, VMRO-BND (ECR-BG)

11:30 – 11:45

Coffee break

11:45 – 13:00

Panel II

Security, Migration and Foreign Interference in the Western Balkans

  • Marko Milanović Litre, MP, Vice President of New Direction Foundation (ECR-HR)
  • Aleksander Arabadźić, President and co-creator of the Academy of European Careers
  • Neno Dimov, former Minister of Environment and Waters, founder of the Conservative Institute, Bulgaria
  • Dr. Richard Turcsányi, Program Director, Central European Institute of Asian Studies
  • Ruslan Stefanov, Director (Economic Programme); Centre for the Study of Democracy
  • Stefan Vladisavljev, Programme Coordinator Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society
  • Moderator: Ilina Mangova, Europe Regional Advisor, International Republican Institute

13:00 - 14:30

Break and working lunch

14:30 – 15:45

Panel III

Media Freedom and Pluralism in the Western Balkans

  • Andrey Slabakov, MEP, VMRO-BND (ECR-BG)
  • Dominika Ćosić, journalist, European correspondent TVP, Telewizja Polska
  • Jure Gudelj, journalist, Editor at
  • Mariya Tzvetkova, journalist, former Member of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, Member of the Executive Committee of VMRO-BND
  • Michal Chládek, deputy chairman of Right bank - Petr Fiala institute
  • Vladislav Apostolov, journalist, TV presenter at “Bulgaria 24”
  • Natalia Bayram, Lawyer, Activist & Member of the Stop Media Ban
  • Moderator: Julia Kril, Executive Director, B&K Agency

15:45 – 16:00

Coffee break

16:00 – 16:15

Keynote speech

  • Emilija Redžepi, Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo for Minority Issues and Human Rights (NDS-KS)

16:15 – 17:30

Panel IV

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

  • Marsela Delija, EDYN Albania Chapter representative
  • Vedrana Vujović, MP, and EDYN Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador
  • Ideal Zhaveli, Executive Director of Activism Roots and EDYN Kosovo Ambassador
  • Zineta Husić, EDYN Montenegro Chapter representative
  • Blendi Hodai, CEO of Forum for Educational Change, and EDYN North Macedonia Chapter representative
  • Aleksandar Mijailović, lawyer, and EDYN Serbia Ambassador
  • Moderator: Enrik Keco, Vice-President, European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN)


Closing remarks

  • Angel Dzhambazki MEP, Vice President of New Direction Foundation


Official dinner