On 28 August 2015 the European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity launched its project “mapping the Western Balkans” at the Korčula School in Croatia. The main aim is to make a SWOT-analysis of the transformation of South East Europe (SEE) and development of (social) democracy.
The launch took place in the framework of the annual gender Korčula School and welcomed 25 participants. The first part of the program focused on social democracy in the region and tried to provide answers to the following questions: what has been the role of social democratic parties in modernising their countries? And the European social democrats? What is the state of play and what are the main challenges? An introductionary presentation was provided by Prof. Jernej Pikalo (University of Ljubljana) who argued, among others, that modern social democracy should be both a guarantor of the achievements of the welfare state and have a vision on the future that gives hope. At the same time, electorate trust in mainstream social democratic parties has decreased and social democratic political parties are considered as old establishment. The discussion that followed mainly focused on the rise of the so-called radical left, internal party democracy and the challenges that neo-liberal economic reform agendas – connected to the EU integration process – bring to social democracy in the region.
The second part kicked off with contributions by Prof. Othon Anastanakis (St Antony’s College SEE Studies at Oxford) and Alba Çela (Albanian Institute for International Relations). Anastanakis warned about the Balkanisation of the centre-left in Europe: ‘There is a demand among the electorate for something new, but a supply from social democracy lacks’. At the same time the fragmentation within the radical left (Syriza for example) is an opportunity for centre left. Çela stated, among others, that social democratic parties should continue to be an engine for change and deliver social democratic policies once in power.
In addition to the launch, the project will consist of three assessment visits to Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro. During these visits we will meet academics, politicians, civil society representatives and journalists in order to discuss the following issues: What is the state of social democracy in the region? What has been the role of social democratic parties in reforming and modernising their countries? How did these parties develop over the years? What has been the role of the European social democratic movement in this? Are social democratic parties (still) an engine for societal change and sustainable development? Are they a credible alternative to nationalist and populist movements?
The project will result in a publication that aims to provide advises and proposals to left wing policy makers and politicians in Europe. At the same time it will reflect on the role of social democratic political parties and foundations from the EU and their contribution to social democracy in South East Europe.