The second panel of the Podgorica Plenum: “Quo vadis, Balkans?” organized by Regional Academy for Democratic Development, Center for Civic Education and Friedrich Ebert Foundation, hosted the Member of the Parliament from Democratic Party of Socialists and former Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, longtime member of the German Bundestag and Bundestag rapporteur for the Western Balkans Josip Juratovic, Executive Director of the Center for democracy from Serbia Natasa Vuckovic, former President of the Parliament of Montenegro Ranko Krivokapic, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina and founder of ADD Sasa Magazinovic and former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia Vesna Pusic.
Josip Juratovic, one of the most influential deputies in the German Bundestag, said that the topic of the Western Balkans in the Bundestag is very important and that the reason for this are the constant smoldering conflicts that threaten to escalate and keep this topic in constant focus. He expressed great concern, especially because of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also because of the situation in Montenegro where nationalism threatens to prevail and become the dominant narrative, as well as North Macedonia whose dispute with Bulgaria, which has long blocked European integration, puts to the test not only entire European Union, but the core foundations of democracy as well.
Ranko Krivokapic, longtime President of the Parliament of Montenegro, said that ethnocentrism has proved to be the greatest enemy of democracy in the former Yugoslavia and that this is a problem we still face and need to fight, both nationally and regionally.
Member of the Parliament of Montenegro and former Prime Minister of Montenegro Dusko Markovic stated that today, in the political sense, Montenegro is lagging behind the period reached in the late 1990s. He said that this situation is inappropriate for a NATO member state and a former regional leader in European integration and added that that the biggest losers, besides a multiethnic society, are citizens, and that the time has come for Montenegro to give a strong civic response to a situation in which it has found itself.
Former Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia Vesna Pusic said that in the previous thirty years, Croatia had had a right-wing government for more than twenty years, and that this reflects the situation in the entire region. She said that it is crucial for democratic control of the government that there are credible alternatives to each government and that every government must have an equally strong political option to control it, and that she is concerned about the lack of truly democratic and civic options in many countries in the region.
The executive director of the Foundation Center for Democracy, Natasa Vuckovic, said that when we talk about social democracy in Serbia, we are talking about the opposition and that we are talking about two very unequal sides, where there is no counterbalance that is often talked about as the need of every society. She emphasized that in Serbia, the social democratic parties do not have answers to the modern challenges that our society is facing, starting with economic, development, environmental and other issues. Social democracy in our region implies regional cooperation, reconciliation, turning the nationalist narrative into a narrative of reconciliation, and we do not have a social democratic option that actively speaks about these things. The social democratic parties in the Western Balkans, especially in Serbia, were the bearers of the European story, and now that policy is being put aside today and it can be seen that it is slowly disappearing from the narratives of these parties. Moreover, the social democratic parties are proposing and supporting candidates who openly speak of being right-wing, nationalist and conservative, which calls into question the entire political project of the social democrats in this area.
Sasa Magazinovic, a longtime member of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina does not differ significantly from that in Serbia or Croatia, but that it is much more complex and difficult due to specific problems and challenges Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing. He reminded that one of the most prominent examples of this is the current crisis regarding changes of the electoral system in which the international community is not very helpful. He emphasized that values have to be foundation of our policy and that any abandonment of values comes with a great price. Flirting with right-wing sentiments and policies has always ended disastrously, not only for those civic-oriented and social democratic politicians who have done so, but also for the countries in which they are active.