Dear participants of the 1stAcademic Workshop “Understanding the Foreign Policy Behavior of the Balkans from a Small States perspective” here in the premises of the newly established Tirana office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation,
It is a very special pleasure for me to welcome you in Tirana in an extraordinary context where we see the Western Balkans are declared as a key priority for the European Union. We have opened our office in Tirana – our fourth office in the Balkans – one year ago based on our strong commitment to the European idea and to the integration of the Western Balkans in European structures. We are pleased about the current momentum of EU-Western Balkans relations. However, we are also well aware about the risks involved. The topic of small states has become a thought-provoking subject within international relations, yet research on the Balkan states’ foreign policy making from a small state perspective remains few. In the context of stronger engagement of the EU to accelerate the integration process of the region, a comprehensive study of Western Balkans’ foreign policies from a small state perspective can present new and timely insights. I am delighted that we have now come together in Tirana to discuss how the small states approach can contribute to the understanding and explaining the foreign policy making of Balkan states.
Let us discuss together how we can face the challenges involved in the integration of the Western Balkan states and bring sustainable peace and development to our continent. With this workshop we want to foster academic exchange and research cooperation on the European level to develop the analytical tools, which are necessary to better shape dialogue and integration within the region itself as well as on the European level. Support this idea with your knowledge, network and commitment. I would be pleased if this academic workshop could be the starting point for further discussions and meetings on this topic - gladly again in Tirana.