Third powers and Authoritarian Challenges in the Western Balkans

9:30 - 13:00

SAIS Johns Hopkins University
Room 806, Washington DC

Summary_Workshop Third powers and authoritatioan Challenges in the Western Balkans

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 followed its failure in systemic competition with the West by economic and political means. In the Western Balkans, Russia and China so far still (mostly) stick to a more restrained form of autocracy promotion and autocratic diffusion, complicating democratization processes promoted by the EU and US. This workshop will explore the subject from three angles.

  • The first session will address how China aims to inspire and gain influence with its successful state-led economic model, particular loan and investment policies – discussed as “corrosive capital” – as well as strategic cooperation with some countries in the region. Notably, authoritarian leaderships in Belgrade and Banja Luka have already been strengthened.
  • The second session will see a debate on Russia’s approaches to cement its influence and resist Euro-Atlantic integration of Western Balkans states. It will highlight energy dependence, support for autocratic, separatist, and anti-EU forces, and the remaining support base, particularly in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.
  • The third session will discuss the consequences of this new systemic competition and transatlantic responses, including on sensitive issues such as Bosnia-Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the normalization of Serbia-Kosovo ties.


09.30 – 9.45 in Eastern Time (USA und Kanada)
Welcome and introductory remarks
Wolfgang Petritsch, oiip and AMPF
Dan Hamilton, SAIS
Vedran Dzihic, oiip

9:45 – 10.45
Session 1: China’s impact on democratization in the Western Balkans – Authoritarian model and corrosive capital
Chair: Michael Haltzel, SAIS
Kick-off comments by
David O. Shullman, Atlantic Council
Stefan Vladisavljev. Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society
Thomas Eder, oiip

11.00 – 12.00
Session 2: Russia’s resistance to Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans
Chair: Vedran Dzihic, oiip
Kick-off comments by
Senada Šelo Šabić, The Institute for Development and International Relations, Zagreb
Ivana Stradner, FDD / AEI
Dimitar Bechev, Oxford and Carnegie (via Zoom)
Paul Stronski, Carnegie

12.00 – 13.00
Session 3: Transatlantic response to autocratic third powers in the Western Balkans
Chair: Dan Hamilton, SAIS
Kick-off comments by
Donika Emini, CiviKos Platform / BiEPAG
Edward P. Joseph, SAIS
Cengiz Günay, oiip

Meeting Registration – Zoom