BELGRADE – SERBIA

500+ participants / 80+ speakers / 20+ panels
BSC2023

11-13 OCTOBER / HOTEL HYATT

The First of Many Chapters: Belgrade Security Conference is Officially Closed

November 3, 2022 by BSC
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The Belgrade Security Conference (BSC) under the title “Authoritarianism as a Cause of War and a Duty to Resist”, organized by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, was held in Hyatt Regency Hotel in Belgrade on October 27-28. During the two days and 16 panels, the conference brought together more than 400 in person participants and over 80 speakers from more than 20 countries.

Igor Bandovic, the Director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), officially opened this year’s conference and highlighted the need for honest conversations, suggesting that Serbia can no longer remain Balkan-centric. That is the reason why the BSC is focusing on the threat of authoritarianism in the wider context of Europe.

“Authoritarianism is the same in all parts of the world, it can never be good and in its final stage it can lead to war and suffering,” pointed out BCSP Director.

During the opening remarks, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia emphasized the importance of civil society in protecting human rights and freedom of speech, pointing out that the voices of the civil society must be heard.

This year`s Belgrade Security Conference was organized in memoriam of Vojin Dimitrijevic, a prominent human rights defender and fighter for democracy. The Conference was opened with a short documentary about his life and work on the occasion of ten years since his death. Additionally, the first day of the Belgrade Security Conference concluded with a special event: “The Relevance of Vojin Dimitrijevic’s Pioneering Book on Security in International Relations 50 Years Later”, which commemorated Vojin Dimitrijević and his contributions to human rights advocacy and international relations.

War against Ukraine – A Global Watershed Moment

The first part was focused on War in Ukraine with panels entitled “Ukraine Under Attack: A View from Kyiv”, “Russia and the War against Ukraine: A Watershed Moment” and “Black Sea Region at the Boiling Point.” The main points brought up during this part were that the Russian war against Ukraine is an imperialistic war of authoritarian Russia and that lasting peace for Ukraine is only possible when the authoritarian regime in Russia ceases to exist. During the discussions, it was pointed out that it is difficult to imagine what the world would look like after the end of the war, but there must be a way to build it back better and more secure.

EU Path of the Western Balkans – A New Momentum?

At the beginning of the second part, entitled “The future of the EU”, H.E. Emauele Giaufret, head of the delegation and the Ambassador of EU to Serbia, addressed the audience by saying: “EU unity and determination have grown in the wake of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Citizens’ trust in EU is the highest since 2008. Why? Because the EU responds to citizens’ needs in crisis and offers democracy, freedom, security, and economic prosperity.” The Vice-President of the European Commission, Vera Jourova, spoke about the current pressures that democracy, fundamental rights, and rule of law face within the EU and beyond. Therefore, at this moment, defending democracy is paramount. She emphasized that “we can only preach on the rule of law if we keep our own house in order.”

Throughout the four panels: “EU enlargement in new Geopolitical Circumstances: How to Use the New Impetus?”, “Energy Diversification in Southeast Europe”, “The EU’s Own Illiberal Challenge: Authoritarians in the House and the Backyard” and “Open Balkan and Berlin Process – Labyrinth of Regional Cooperation” speakers talked about the extent of the pressures that democracies within EU member and candidate states face, influence of the energy crisis on the geopolitical situation as well as whether the war in Ukraine created opportunities or risks for the EU enlargement process. It was stated that the rise of illiberalism within and beyond the EU puts in danger the EU’s foundations. It has been noted that the challenges within the EU negatively impact credibility of EU values in candidate countries.

Bridging the Gap between the Academics and Practitioners

The second day began with an Academic Event. Luka Glusac, this year’s Academic Chair, emphasized the importance of academic events and stated that the BSC is a valuable opportunity for academics to exchange their opinions, and to find proposals for solutions to current problems. Two panels were held during the academic event focusing on sustainable development, entitled “Exploring the Security-Development-Human Rights Nexus in Theory and Practice” and “Security and Development in Fragile and Conflict Environments”. All panellists agreed that human rights are a precondition for security development. Subsequently, countries are never supposed to be put in a position to choose between development and human rights. Human rights should be perceived as a bridge between security and development.  Inclusive and accountable institutions that belong to people and are linked to a positive peace context are preconditions for human rights protection.

Focus on Human Security Threats

The third part titled “Democracy and Authoritarianism” was consisted of four panels, covering variety of topics, from “The Human Dimensions of Security – Human Rights Defenders Protection in Serbia” and “How to Counter Disinformation in the Western Balkans” to “Cybersecurity, Democracy and Human Rights: Could a More Human-Centric Approach to Cybersecurity Strengthen Democracy” and “Democracies Held to Ransom: Organized Crime and Authoritarianism”. Observing the Western Balkans, vulnerable social groups and human rights defenders were identified as the most frequent subjects of online violence. When discussing organized crime, the panellists agreed that the War in Ukraine has been profitable for the transnational crime market. It was noted that when trying to break the cycle of organized crime, strong institutions are critical. An exorbitant amount of money has been spent in trying to fight corruption. However, these efforts have been futile without strong institutional support.

A Peaceful and Green Future Ahead?

The last part – “EU and Regional Security” included the panels “Security Architecture in Europe After the War in Ukraine”, “Sacrifice Zones: The Blind Spots of the Green Energy Transition” and “Kosovo and Serbia – Escaping the Dead-end.” The end of the war will shape the future of European peace and security order and now is the time to think about the new security architecture. It is also significant to consider the green transformation for decarbonization, which is in the heart of geopolitical struggle, geo-economics and democracy. Referring to the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, participants agreed that the relations between Serbia and Kosovo should be normalized but their opinions differed in the way how the future of relation should be comprehended. Variety of topics and problems were discussed on this panel, from licence plates in Kosovo to the Franco-German initiative regarding Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. 

Srdjan Cvijic, President of the International Advisory Committee of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, officially closed the Belgrade Security Conference. During his speech, Srdjan referred to the student protest in 1996 and 1997 where students carried a banner with the slogan “Belgrade is the world.” As Srdjan stated “In the time where we face the regime that doesn’t accept nor allow criticism and the culture of dialogue, we held our first Belgrade Security Conference, and Belgrade was yet again the world.” He thanked Ukrainians for coming to the BSC and for their courage and defiance. He also thanked free women and men of Russia and Belarus, who despite the great danger back home accepted to address the conference. With the words “This is not the end but merely a beginning” Srdjan Cvijic officially closed the Belgrade Security Conference.

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