The international conference “Germia Hill” convened around 200 guests from 40 different countries worldwide

Prishtina, 3 February 2016 – Prishtina hosted the third international conference “Germia Hill” themed “The Security Architecture of South East Europe in light of Wider Global Challenges” which convened around 200 guests from 40 different countries worldwide, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo in cooperation with the world renowned “Aspen Institute”

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, Mr. Isa Mustafa opened this two-day conference by welcoming all the present guests, stated that: "Germia Hill" aims to give substantial contribution to the themes that concern and employ European diplomacy and chancelleries. Mustafa highlighted three areas where Kosovo is engaged specifically, which also were themes to this conference such as: migration, fight against radicalization and terrorism and the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, and Russian implications to the developments in these two countries.

“Kosovo has never been more connected with the European family than it is today. We have signed our first contractual agreement with the European Union, and by doing so, Kosovo became a factor of development, factor of stability, factor of dialogue with neighbours, contributor to the peace and security in the Western Balkans", stated Prime Minister Mustafa during his speech in front of the participants.

First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo, Mr. Hashim Thaçi in his opening remarks during the first panel themed "Global challenges and Roles of NATO and the EU in  Western Balkans", stated that even during his term as Foreign Minister he remained particularly committed to regional cooperation, highlighting that cooperation and dialogue with neighbours are not only obligations to the European integration process, but they are also the values for which Kosovo politicians should be proud of.

“I have met presidents, prime ministers and ministers from across the region. Last year, Prishtina hosted the "Western Balkans 6" summit within the "Berlin Process". The concerning summit served for preparing the Vienna summit agenda concerning the cooperation in the construction of regional infrastructure, "stated Thaçi during the panel discussions.

While speaking on migration, the fight against radicalism and terrorism, and conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, Thaçi stressed that due to the awareness raising policies of the Kosovo Government, the number of asylum seekers has dropped significantly, and he also stated that the Assembly of Kosovo adopted a the law that prevents Kosovars from joining conflicts outside the country, while adding that the number of Kosovars fighting in Syria and Iraq has dropped from 300 to about 70. The Deputy Prime Minister noted that entering into contractual relations with the European Union by signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement is the evidence that Kosovo is  safely moving towards the great European family, while adding that Kosovo remains committed to the establishment of the Armed Forces and engagement in the NATO`s Partnership for Peace Programme.

Vivid and intriguing discussions during this two-day conference were covered by a large number of local and international media.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Malta, George William Vella, was among the keynote speakers who spoke on "Irregular migration, the situation in Libya, as well as the priorities of Malta on the verge of assuming chairmanship of the EU presidency”.

Present were also many editors and journalists of the world media such as "New York Times", "The Economist", "The Times", "Franfkurter Allgemeine Zeitung", and many other media outlets.

Part of the first panel were Dusko Markovic, Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro; Fatmir Besimi, Deputy Prime Minister of Macedonia; Mimi Kodheli, Minister of Defence of Albania; and László Szabó, Deputy Foreign Minister of Hungary, while Roger Boyes, diplomatic editor of the well-known British newspaper "The Times", was the panel moderator.

Deputy Prime Minister Markovic stated that Kosovo will always have the support of Montenegro with regard to its integration into the EU and NATO.

Deputy Prime Minister, Fatmir Besimi, stressed that the Euro-Atlantic perspective is not only a theory, but it is something tangible and specific. "We should have no illusions about fast and easy integration processes. Ongoing reforms in all segments of society are crucial", stated Mr. Besimi.

Minister Kodheli asked if closing the borders would be a European response to the migrant influx challenge. "I do not think so. No state has vanished because of refugees. On the contrary, those countries were even empowered by accepting them," stated Minister Kodheli. She added that the Western Balkan countries have learned from their past, which was often blooy.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister Szabó noted that keeping promises "hanging in the air" may overdo countries aspiring EU membership.

The second day of the conference was opened by Rüdiger Lentz, Executive Director at the Aspen Institute/Germany, who stated that the refugee crisis teaches us all that Europeans have a rooted desire for peace, adding that the leadership is more appropriate than ever before and the will for finding common solutions in times of crisis is essential.

In the first panel themed "The Return of geopolitics? Implications of the conflict in Syria and Ukraine for Security in Southeast Europe and the EU", moderated by Tim Judah, Reporter and Political Analyst for the" The Economist ", participated Skender Hyseni, Minister of Internal Affairs of Kosovo; Maçães Bruno, the Former Minister for Europe in the Government of Portugal; Sergei Konoplyov, Director of Black Sea Security Program in Harvard and Executive Director of the U.S-Russia Security Program; Alexander Nikitin,  professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Russia; and Radovan Vukadinovic, President of Atlantic Council, Croatia.

Minister Hyseni stated that the conflict in Ukraine may not have direct implications for Kosovo, but we may feel a certain influence considering Serbia's position to this conflict. He added that Ukraine marks Russia's new and serious effort to re-emerge as a renewed global power. He added that Kosovo has managed to identify all Kosovars involved in Syria's conflict, either killed or returned to Kosovo.

Former Minister for Europe in the Government of Portugal, Mr. Bruno Maçães stated that perhaps Western and Central Europe are intertwining with Balkans, whereas in his opinion it should have been the other way around.

Konoplyov emphasised that Russia's involvement in Ukraine and Syria proves that Russia has a role to play in situations of chaos and instability.

Professor Nikitin stated that "we all need "a new pragmatism" and less ideology; it is time to end the logic of "zero sum game" which at times appears to be present in the Russia-West relations.

Radovan Vukadinoviq from the Atlantic Council amongst other spoke about Croatia’s experience in the NATO membership process. Whereas, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta, Mr. George William Vella, one of the key note speakers in the conference, whose country will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, respectively on 01 January 2017, stated that Europe needs more cohesion and unity in the verge of this large migrant’s influx. He congratulated Kosovo’s institutions for increasing the awareness of Kosovo citizens that lead to a record return of migrants, referring to this achievement as “nothing less than spectacular”. He praised the Summit on Migration held last year in La Valletta as a plea for specific actions and a comprehensive migration policy. Minister Vella underlined that Malta-Kosovo relations are a success story and needs to be strengthened, while adding that the signing of the SAA between Kosovo and the EU provides more opportunities for cooperation in energy, environment, justice sectors and internal affairs.

The following speaker, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Naci Koru, stated that the faster the Balkans is integrated in the EU, the easier it will be to build stability in Europe. He added that, according to UNHCR, Turkey is the largest refugee host in the world, with 2.5 million Syrians that are currently in Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Kosovo, Ulrike Lunacek, through a video-message, addressed participants of the next panel themed "International Migration and its Impact on European Unity".  Lunacek stated that refugees are human beings and not just numbers, adding that freedom of movement is the EU's most valued and successful achievement and that everyone must protect it.

This panel was moderated by Tobias Flessenkemper, Board Member of the Southeast Europe Association, Senior Associate Researcher, (Centre international de formation européenne), whereas speakers to this panel were Sonja Licht, President, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence; Christiana Markert, Head of Division for EU-Enlargement, Neighbourhood Policy, Migration, German Federal Foreign Office; Vladimir Petronijevic, Executive Director of "Grupa 484", Serbia; and Pär Stenbäck, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Board Member of International Crisis Group (ICG).

Mr. Flessenkemper recalled the conclusions of 1999 Tampere European Council, Finland, on migration policies at a time when Europe was undergoing a wave of migrants, including Kosovars during the war in Kosovo.

Licht stated that the EU remains to be the most successful peaceful movement in the history of human kind, emphasising that historically was not paid sufficient attention to preserving the EU's founding principles.

Markert stated that the mood in Germany has changed. She said that Germany needs space for breathing, a significant reduction of the migrants influx, and that the latter should happen soon.

Petronijevic stated that although we must take care of the Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees, we must bear in mind that there are also refugees from other countries of the world. He asked if the debate "security in front of human rights" will continue to prevail.

On the other hand, Mr. Stenbäck stated that migration is a global phenomenon. He said that 3.3% of the world population currently lives outside their country of origin and added that, in the past, the EU has managed to cope with migration influxes, and so will now.

Next panel was themed “The Global Efforts to Countering Violent Extremism”, and was moderated by Edith Harxhin, Executive Director of “Albanian Policy Center” and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania. Other panellists discussing on this theme were: Savo Kentera, President and Director, Atlantic Council of Montenegro; Dragana Kiprijanovska, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Macedonia; Florian Qehaja, Executive Director, Kosovar Center for Security Studies (KCSS); Petrit Selimi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo; and Tamas Vargha  Deputy Minister of Defense, Hungary

Kentera spoke about the ongoing process of Montenegro's membership in NATO now that the state of Montenegro has received an official invitation to join the North Atlantic Alliance. He emphasised that Montenegro will share the experiences of this journey with neighbouring states.

Qehaja stated that prison is not the best solution to violent extremism. He emphasised that this poison could spread very quickly, and that we must cooperate to extract information. "Soft power is an approach that many regions throughout the world are using to fight extremism. We too, should use this approach".

Kiprijanovska stated that "we need civilized partnerships; we must continue to renew our commitment and promote the interreligious tolerance”.

Mr. Selimi stated that Kosovo must retain its unique secular model, through continuous promotion of interfaith dialogue.

Vargha emphasised that the fight against violent extremism requires global action, adding that the inadequate use of force might increase and strengthen violent extremism.

Whereas, the parallel panel discused about the "Energy Security and Dependency in South East Europe and Its Implications for the Region". The panel was moderated by Valbona Zeneli, Director, Black Sea and Eurasia Program, Marshall Center, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, whereas other the panellists were:  Konstantin von Eggert, Journalist and Political Commentator from Russia, Julijus Grubliauskas, Staff Officer in the Energy Security Section, Emerging Security Challenges Division in NATO; Blerim Reka, Professor at Southeast European University, Skopje, Former Ambassador of Macedonia to the EU; and Erhan Turbedar, Senior Political Advisor at the Regional Cooperation Council.

Mr. Von Eggert spoke on the changing nature of the energy market, the impact of decreased oil and gas prices in Russia, given that oil and gas account for over 60% of Russia's exports, and beyond.

Grubliauskas stated that Europe should aim to more modest and implementable projects.

Blerim Reka stated that the Balkan corridors are of geostrategic importance considering that they are connected by railway and energy corridors.

Türbedar spoke about the difficulties in cooperation between the Western Balkan countries in the fields of energy and transport under the effects of the global economic crisis in Eastern Europe.

The closing panel was on "The Future of the Euro-Atlantic community in Uncertain Times", moderated by Rüdiger Lentz. Panellists to this session were Jennifer Bachus, Deputy US ambassador to Kosovo; Gunther Hellmann, professor at Goethe University, Franfkurt am Main; Bernd Hüttemann, vice president of the European Movement International; and Sonja Licht, President, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence.

Mrs. Bachus stated that relations between the US and Europe are and will always be strong, since the Euro-Atlantic values are the foundation to their alliance. U.S. considers that the Balkans has a central role in Europe, stated Mrs. Bachus.

Hellmann stressed that the liberal dream is fading. He stated that Europeans that once were the synonym for human rights are now saying that "you are not welcome”.

Hüttemann underlined that the human rights and democracy can be the ground for the EU recovery. "The so-called defenders of Christianity in Europe want to blackmail Kosovo calling it as the kitchen of ISIS terrorists," stated Hüttemann.

At the end, Licht stated that Germany should be proud of its response to the migration wave and to these achievements that Germans are marking as true Europeans.

"Germia Hill" conference provides a framework to address and elaborate a complex geopolitical landscape from South East Europe perspective. NATO continues to be the sole aspiration for collective security for the Republic of Kosovo as well as for the majority of other countries in the region. However, all Southeast Europe countries share the same concerns with the rest of Europe and are not immune to challenges in the foreign policy and security domains. Faced with a new armed conflict in Ukraine and an escalated war in Syria, as well as with migration and increased religious and political extremism, South East Europe continues to face a number of challenges in light of Euro-Atlantic integration, particularly with regards to complex geopolitical implications.