Security Challenges in the Balkans 2024

Security Challenges in the Balkans 2024

The eight edition of the international conference “Security Challenges in the Balkans” took place on Friday, June 7,  in Timișoara, at the Senator Complex. The event is organized by the West University of Timișoara and the New Strategy Center, under the patronage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania.

The event was broadcasted live and the agenda is available here:  Security Challenges in the Balkans 2024




The official opening was made by George Scutaru, CEO of New Strategy Center, Marilen Pirtea, Rector of West University of Timișoara and Ana Tinca, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The panel, titled “Current Challenges in the Balkans Region in the Context of the War in Ukraine,” was chaired by Ambassador Gheorghe Magheru, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, Romania. The speakers were: Mrs. Irina Zidaru, General Director for Strategic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romania; Brigadier General Constantin Nicolaescu, Commander of the NATO Multinational Brigade South-East, Romania; Ms. Nevenka Vuksanović, Director of the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights in Montenegro; Mrs. Edina Bećirević, Co-founder of the Atlantic Initiative in Bosnia-Herzegovina; and Mr. Vuk Vuksanovic, Senior Researcher at the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, Serbia.

The panel addressed several key issues affecting the Balkans in the context of the war in Ukraine. Romania plays a crucial role in ensuring regional stability through initiatives such as the French-led NATO battle group, highlighting the importance of cooperation between NATO and the EU, especially given the geostrategic importance of EU enlargement for Ukraine and Moldova. The Balkans is facing a number of problems such as state fragility, institutional incapacity, ethnic tensions, energy dependency. At the same time there are new hybrid threats that further weaken the Balkans region. Russia uses a wide arsenal of hybrid tools using and accentuating local vulnerabilities.
The Slavic factor, the Orthodox Church, some historical elements, disinformation campaigns aimed at denigrating the EU and NATO are currently being used by Russia to weaken Western influence in the Balkans region.
The Balkan region needs to address these challenges using EU support to increase societal resilience.
At the same time, the West needs to have a much more coherent policy towards the Balkans and the EU needs to signal that the enlargement process has a predictable and certain time horizon for the Western Balkan states.


The panel titled “The Balkans Fatigue? EU and NATO Enlargement in the Western Balkans” was chaired by Brigadier General (ret.) Eduard Simion, Senior Associate Expert at the New Strategy Center in Romania. The panel featured Amb. René Troccaz, Special Envoy for the Balkans at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mr. İlhan Saygılı, Director General for the Balkans and Central Europe at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mrs. Violeta Nicolescu, Director General of the Defence Policy Department at the Romanian Ministry of Defence; Mr. Leonard Orban, Member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center and former EU Presidential Advisor from Romania; Ms. Maria Simeonova, Head of the Sofia Office at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Bulgaria; Mrs. Irma Qehajaj, Communications Manager at the Cooperation and Development Institute in Albania; and Mr. Jochen M. Richter, Chair of the Global Security Forum at the Diplomatic Council in Luxembourg.

The discussion underlined the importance of completing the EU accession process for the candidate countries of the Western Balkans. Panellists stressed the need to improve connectivity, energy independence and institutional mechanisms to allow faster access to the EU. Despite enlargement fatigue on both the EU and candidate countries’ side, the benefits of EU membership were noted, citing Poland, Romania or Bulgaria’s post-accession economic growth as examples. However, political will and respect for EU values remain significant barriers, as seen in Serbia’s recent election controversies and its alliances with Russia and China. The panel concluded that EU enlargement should continue as a strategic goal for security and prosperity, requiring regional cooperation, political will and changes in EU policies towards the Balkan states. In addition, the inclusion of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia was considered crucial, calling for new instruments and policies to facilitate the overall enlargement of the European Union.

Presentation of NUPI-NSC study

During the presentation of the study developed by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs-NUPI and the New Strategy Center on Russian disinformation campaigns in the NATO area in the context of the war in Ukraine, Razvan Ceuca, an expert from the New Strategy Center, engaged in a dialogue with Ileana Rotaru, associate professor at the Faculty of Political Science, Philosophy and Communication at the West University of Timisoara, Romania, and Larisa Vasile, PhD student at the same university. The study focused on measuring national attitudes in Romania and Norway during 2022 and 2023, especially in light of the Russian war in Ukraine. They developed an educational model at the West University of Timisoara based on a person-to-person approach, enrolling over 135 students from diverse educational backgrounds to identify misinformation and analyse media resources. The study highlighted the importance of combating Russian disinformation, particularly in the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and stressed the need to improve citizens’ critical apparatus to better cope with disinformation campaigns.



Panel III, entitled “Regional Prosperity in the Age of Economic Security”, was chaired by Alexandru Jădăneanț, Dean of the West University of Timisoara, and featured the following speakers: Casian Nițulescu, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Energy of Romania; Ms Ana Maria Boromisa, Head of the International Economic Relations Department of the Institute for Development and International Relations of Croatia; Ligia Ardelean, Country Manager Atos GDC for Romania and Bulgaria; Alexandru Maximescu, Vice President of OMV Petrom, and Cristian Octavian Goiceanu, Chief Security Officer, Banca Comercială Română, Romania.

Discussions revolved around various topics related to prosperity and economic stability in the Balkan region. In this context, the importance of gas exploitation in the Black Sea, which could also meet the needs of some Balkan states, was highlighted, as well as Romania’s role as a regional contributor to energy security. This development takes place against the backdrop of the growing interest of EU Member States in energy, improving energy efficiency and compliance with environmental regulations. In addition, speakers stressed the need to address the challenges posed by Russia’s influence, creating an opportunity for countries in the region to realise the four trump cards of energy security (availability, affordability, acceptability and accessibility). In addition to other priorities, the Balkan countries should prioritise technology as a strategic tool for promoting economic development, prosperity and creating new energy opportunities.


Panel IV, entitled “The Race for Artificial Intelligence. Lessons (To Be) Learned for the Future” was moderated by Claudiu Brândaș, professor at the West University of Timisoara and brought together speakers in the field such as: Marius Poșa, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitalization; Octavian Stancu, Head of Cybersecurity Services at GDC Romania & Global Head of Cloud Threat Management at BDS – Eviden; Alexandru Mărgineanu, MS Security Practice Leader, Nokia Romania and Horia Bogdan Velicu, Head of Innovation Lab at BRD-GSG.

The perspectives discussed considered two forms of manifestation of artificial intelligence, one benign, revolutionising all sectors of today’s society and the other malignant, linked to the malicious use of this technology. Potential implications for the future in cases of major security incidents and cyber warfare were analysed. Speakers warned that the artificial intelligence revolution has begun, but it is up to us humans to decide how we want to use it and how far we can take it. Particular threats were demonstrated by hackers’ attempts to affect our lives and influence our perception of reality with deepfakes. Speakers agreed that AI is already influencing our lives, offering both automation benefits and risks.

New Strategy Center would like to thank its partners at the West University of Timisoara for organizing the conference and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its support and patronage.