Is Balkans Group just Crisis Group under another name?
No. We are an independent NGO with a different mandate: where Crisis Group worked on conflict prevention and resolution, Balkans Group focuses on peacebuilding and statebuilding. But we will use the skills and maintain the standards of quality and impartiality we learned with ICG. If Crisis Group is the emergency room and intensive care ward, Balkans Group is the long-term medicine and physical therapy patients need to return to full function.
There are a lot of think tanks and policy NGOs in the Balkans. What makes Balkans Group different?
We are a local NGO – with international staff and standards. We bring an unmatched depth and variety of experience to bear. We’ve met with everyone from presidents and prime ministers to small-town mayors, small business owners, religious leaders, policemen and prosecutors. We have a regional perspective and can apply lessons learned throughout the Balkans.
What is Balkans Group’s goal?
Our vision is a Balkan region composed of strong, stable democracies on good terms with one another, founded on effective protection of human and minority rights, the rule of law, transparency, and robust economic growth. We believe this reflects the ambitions of the overwhelming majority of citizens of Balkan states. It is a vision that will take years to achieve, is by no means guaranteed, and will depend on sustained and coordinated efforts of policy makers in the region and their international partners. Balkans Group aims to help through accurate reporting on key issues (serving as a second – if not only – set of eyes), creative policy development (setting the agenda) and sustained advocacy (securing implementation).
The western Balkan states are all EU candidates or potential candidates; is there still a need for policy research?
Yes. The region still has conflicts that can derail states’ EU hopes, and no new memberships are likely over the next decade. Recent progress notwithstanding the Kosovo-Serbia status dispute can block both states while inflaming nationalism. Macedonia’s EU and NATO progress is blocked by the name dispute and internal troubles. Albania and Montenegro have fewer issues but both are deeply corrupt.
Where will Balkans Group work?
Our primary focus is on Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the two most fragile states in the region. In our conversations with stakeholders, many also expressed interest in reporting on Albania, Macedonia, South Serbia, the Sandžak. We have deep knowledge and expertise about those areas too.
What do others say about Balkans Group?
There is a consensus that Crisis Group’s departure from the region leaves a gap that should be filled, by a team doing work of the same caliber. We have canvassed the opinions of officials of all the major stakeholders – regional government leaders, representatives of the EU, the U.S., Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the United Nations – and leaders of NGOs including Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundations, Independent Diplomat, WalkFree, the Institute for Integrated Transitions, SEEChange, among others.