Leaders to Gather for Second Balkan Forum on Regional Cooperation

 19 – 21 March 2015 - Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki, Greece (19 March 2015) – Western Balkan civic and political leaders along with business professionals will gather in Thessaloniki, Greece, from 19 – 21 March 2015 for the second annual Balkan Forum on Regional Cooperation.

The inaugural Balkan Forum on Regional Cooperation, held in February 2013, enabled a group of diverse stakeholders and emerging leaders to contribute to a new narrative for the Balkans based on opportunities for sustainable economic development, grounded in a commitment to collaborative action. This new narrative leverages the region’s cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity as a valuable asset and an opportunity for investment in a joint market wherein people and goods can move freely.

Between the annual meetings, the Balkan Forum work has centered on advancing concrete ideas and initiatives that emerged from initial deliberations, the aspiration of Western Balkan countries to transform the region into a unified force poised to act on the European and global stages, and the many people and institutions in the region that are committed to fostering sustainable economic development through regional collaboration. An Advisory Committee made up of diverse regional and European representatives—including members of the Nordic Council, which has served as an important model for the Balkan Forum—provides continual support and insight.

The Balkan Forum supports the principles and priorities established at the Conference on the Western Balkans held in Berlin on August 28, 2014. As an independent platform for generating and implementing innovative strategies for regional collaboration, the Balkan Forum serves as a link among various regional stakeholders within the Berlin process across the private, civil society, and government sectors.

This year’s Forum will gather diverse stakeholders to build on progress made since the First Annual Balkan Forum. This second Forum will focus on three interconnected sectors where innovative approaches and meaningful change are considerable: 1) Education for Sustainable Development, 2) Human Capital and Labor Markets: Potential for Green Employment, 3) Economic Development, Energy, and the Environment: Grids and Liberalized Energy Market - Opportunities for South East Europe.

Over 60 leaders from the Balkans will participate in this year’s Forum to explore the region’s strengths and comparative advantages, with the overarching goal of catalyzing regional development competitiveness within European and global markets. 

The Balkan Forum organization is based in Thessaloniki.  


The Second Annual Balkan Forum will convene leaders and innovators from the Balkans to define common goals and design methodologies for realizing a new vision for the region that is based on economic integration, prosperity, and sustainable peace. Building on the ideas and momentum generated at the inaugural forum held in 2013 in Thessaloniki, participants will share creative ideas for regional development in the areas of energy, environment, human capital and labor markets and education. 




19:00 – 19:30 Reception
Location: Makedonia Palace Hotel, 9th Floor Restaurant

19:30 – 22:00 Keynote Speeches & Dinner

Introduction: Luna Kalas, The Balkan Forum


Yannis Boutaris, Municipality of Thessaloniki
Hoskuldur Thorhallsson, Nordic Council
Stephen Heintz, Rockefeller Brothers Fund



8:30 – 8:55 Registration
Room: Aristotelis I
(Ground Floor)

9:00 – 9:10 Welcoming Remarks
Marika Theros, The Balkan Forum

9:10 – 10:45 Perspectives on Increasing the Region’s Prosperity and Sustainability

What are the region’s prospects for economic and overall development within the framework of the EU 2020 growth strategy? Looking at the model of the Nordic region and within the framework of the commitments established by the Conference on the Western Balkans held in Berlin on August 28, 2014, known as the “Berlin Agenda”, this panel aims to suggest avenues for advancing the Balkan region into a more competitive, knowledgeable, and vibrant market.

Moderator: Haki Abazi, Rockefeller Brothers Fund


Jelena Milic, Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies
Cameron Munter, United Group, Serbia Broadband
Samira Nuhanovic Ribic, Foreign Policy Initiative
Harry Papapanagos, University of Macedonia
Ryan Stoner, U.S. Department of State
Alexander Wojda, Embassy of Austria, Greece

10:45 – 11:15 Coffee Break

11:15 – 12:30 The Role of Media and Civil Society in Transforming the Region

This discussion will amplify innovative voices exploring the roles and potential of media and civil society in helping transform the region into a modern, productive, and unified force able to act as a credible partner in Europe and globally. While acknowledging regional obstacles and challenges, the panel will identify joint civil society and media strategies to strengthen economic integration and accelerate sustainable development within a framework of participatory democracy and rule of law.

Moderator: Ivana Cvetkovic Bajrovic, National Endowment for Democracy


Leila Bicakcic, Center for Investigative Reporting
Jelena Cosic, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network
Zefi Dimadama, International Centre for Black Sea Studies
Dorian Ducka, Ministry of Energy and Industry Albania

12:30 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 16:00 Unlocking Local Potential to Set in Motion Regional Change

How can good practices at the local level be best promoted, linked, and scaled to create a regional competitive market? Can innovation-driven entrepreneurship and increased decentralization foster mutually beneficial relationships across the region, encourage labor force mobility and intra-regional learning, and inspire joint ventures into, for example, infrastructure projects? This panel aims to shed light on the role of different stakeholders in driving the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to grow local initiatives for regional development and competitiveness.

Moderator: Marika Theros, The Balkan Forum


Yannis Boutaris, Municipality of Thessaloniki
Aphrodite Bouikidis, Ashoka Greece
Tim Clancy, Via Dinarica
Dardan Sejdiu, Pristina Municipality
Hoskuldur Thorhallsson, Nordic Council


16:00 – 18:30 Parallel Workshop Sessions 
Workshop Objectives: to identify existing constraints, capabilities, opportunities, and assets in specific areas of regional collaboration; to suggest measures necessary to fill gaps and move forward with regional initiatives; and, to generate ideas for collaborative initiatives that can inform regional action-agendas


I - Education: Education for Sustainable Development 

Moderator: Juliana Hoxha, Partner Albania


Milorad Bjeletic, Belgrade Open School
Kalinka Gaber, Progress Institute
Dennis Gratz, Nasa Stranka
Zorica Korac, Regional Environmental Center
Larus Valgardsson, Nordic Council
Miroslav Zivanovic, Human Rights Center

II - Human Capital & Labor Markets: The Potential for Green Employment

Moderator: Kurt Bassuener, Democratization Policy Council


Aphrodite Bouikidis, Ashoka Greece
Biljana Dakic Djordjevic, Trag Foundation
Paul Stubbs, Zagreb Institute of Economics
Dobrica Veselinovic, Collective Ministry of Space
Manolis Vournous, Municipality of Chios
Konstantina Zoehrer, 180 Moires

III - Economic Development, Energy, & the Environment: Grids and Liberalized Energy Market - Opportunities for South East Europe

Moderator: Julian Popov, European Climate Foundation


Visar Azemi, Balkan Green Foundation
Anna Dimitrova, Centre for European Policy Studies
Dorian Ducka, Ministry of Energy and Industry Albania
Tryggvi Felixson, Nordic Council
Antonis Metaxas, Hellenic Energy Regulation Institute


9:00 – 11:00 Parallel Workshop Sessions: Finalizing Ideas 
Individual working groups resume to prepare summaries and recommendations for collaborative action

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 13:00 Reporting Back, Open Discussion & Next Steps
Room: Aristotelis I Presentation from each workshop and facilitated discussion of ideas

Moderator: Haki Abazi, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

14:30 Departures


Haki Abazi is the program director for the Western Balkans portion of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s (RBF) Pivotal Place program. Prior to joining the RBF in 2007, Mr. Abazi served as director of the Kosovo office for East West Management Institute, Inc. Mr. Abazi developed and implemented a wide range of programs addressing critical issues in Kosovo during the transition period. He also has played an important role in the development of the civil society in the region. Mr. Abazi has over fifteen years of experience in designing and managing development programs in Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Afghanistan, and Indonesia. These programs were designed to support overall development and increase the level of participation of citizens in the decision-making processes. Mr. Abazi has in-depth knowledge and work experience related to the Balkan’s civil society community and the geopolitics of the region. Mr. Abazi holds a degree in computer sciences and management, and was educated in Kosovo and the United States. He is fluent in English, Albanian, and Serbian, and also knows basic Dari.

Ioannis Armakolas is an assistant professor at the department of Balkan, Slavic, and Oriental Studies at the University of Macedonia, and a “Stavros Costopoulos” research fellow at ELIAMEP, where he leads the South East Europe Program. He is also the editor-in-chief of the journal, “Southeast European and Black Sea Studies”, published by Routledge. Previous affiliations include ESRC Fellow at the Department of Politics, University of Oxford; Research Fellow at Nuffield College, University of Oxford; Director of Research at the “US- Greece Task Force: Transforming the Balkans” (a joint project of the Hellenic Centre for European Studies and the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies); Region Head for South East Europe at Oxford Analytica; Tip OʼNeill Fellow in Peace and Conflict Studies at INCORE-Northern Ireland. Mr. Armakolas has extensive experience as a consultant with USAID and DFID projects in the Western Balkans.

Visar Azemi is the coordinator of the Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development and the executive director for the Balkan Green Foundation. Previously, Mr. Azemi served as the representative of the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) in Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, and taught math, computer, and business courses for UMUC, both on campus and online. His prior work also includes administrative and management work with the International Organization for Migration and KBR. Mr. Azemi holds a graduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pristina, a second bachelor’s degree in management studies, and a master’s degree in international financial management from UMUC.

Nikolaos Bakirtzis is an undergraduate student at the University of Macedonia in the department of Balkan, Slavic, and Oriental Studies. He is fluent in Greek, English, and French, and also speaks Turkish and Serbian. He has participated in many seminars and workshops.

Anne Bartley has been involved since 1968 in civic engagement at all levels and in many different arenas, all aimed at creating a stronger, more just American society. From a Harlem public school to the neighborhoods of Little Rock, from Arkansas’ first woman cabinet member to the Clinton White House, Ms. Bartley has followed her belief that public service is not only honorable but also essential to fulfill this vision. As a foundation board member, an individual, activist funder, and as a co-founder of several donor networks, she has also sought to maximize the potential of financial assets in support of these objectives.
Three dominant themes are woven through her civic activism—encouraging greater electoral participation for all, especially among people of color and low-income communities; mobilizing donors to support focused social change; and stimulating an ongoing conversation with American citizens leading to increased community involvement and a better informed and more fully engaged electorate.
In 1956, Ms. Bartley moved to a cattle farm in rural Arkansas, a state embroiled in the racial integration crisis created by the reelection bid of Gov. Orville Faubus, and entered an all-white, racist public school. At this early age, she learned that who is elected does indeed make a difference and that it is important for all citizens to live with dignity and to vote without intimidation.
To advance these goals, Ms. Bartley has helped create the following institutions: the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage (1974), the Arkansas Washington Office (1979), the Threshold Foundation (1981), the Funders' Committee for Citizen Participation (1983), the Forum Institute for Voter Participation (1986), the Faith and Politics Institute (1991), Vote Now '92 and '94, America Coming Together (2004), Democracy Alliance (2004), America Votes (2005), and, currently, the Committee on States.
Some of the boards she has served on have been the New World Foundation, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rockefeller Family Fund. She is currently on the boards of the Bauman Family Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, America Votes, and on the Advisory Councils for Project New West and TAI SOPHIA.
Educated at Sarah Lawrence, Finch College, and Columbia Teachers College, she has a BA and a Masters in Teaching in English Language and Literature. She is married to Larry B. McNeil, a former Saul Alinski organizer for 25 years, and, presently, the director of the Institute for Change in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). They have five children and two grandchildren.

Kurt Bassuener is a co-founder and senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council. He has worked on Bosnia policy since 1997 and has resided in Sarajevo since 2005. He co-authored, with Ambassador Jeremy Kinsman, the Diplomat’s Handbook for Democracy and Development Support, a project of the Community of Democracies, the third edition of which was published in September 2013. He received his MA in European studies at the Central European University in Prague in 1994, having earned his BA in international relations at America University’s School of International Service in 1991.

Leila Bicakcic is the director of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN). She was a founding member of the organization when she served as the business manager of the Journalism Development Group. Her responsibilities include fundraising, donor relations, administration, and financial management. Prior to CIN, she worked for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the American Bar Association (ABA/CEELI), where she spent nine years as a finance manager and trainer. A Sarajevo native, she studied physics and economics at the University of Sarajevo.

Milorad Bjeletic is the executive director of the Belgrade Open School (BOS), one of the leading civil society organizations in Serbia. The BOS strengthens human resources, improves the work of institutions and organizations, and develops and advocates for public policies in order to develop a better society based on freedom, knowledge, and innovation. In addition to his everyday managerial activities at BOS, Mr. Bjeletic was a member of the board of the Open Society Foundation Serbia, and a member of several advisory and grant giving boards that support projects on education, capacity building, EU integration, and regional cooperation. Since 1998, he has been a lecturer, trainer, and consultant for programs on civil society development, social skills and NGO management, and project cycle management in Serbia and the Western Balkans for civil society activists, youth, political leaders, administrators, and researchers. His main subjects are civil society development, public policy and advocacy, projects for social and political change, EU integration, and regional cooperation.

Aphrodite Bouikidis is the founder and co-director of Ashoka Greece. Prior to this, she directed the Reinventing Greece Media Project, as well as a student leadership program with Next Generation Initiative, a Hellenic-American non-profit organization that supports leadership and mentorship opportunities for students and young professionals across the United States. She also spent three years on the Middle East and North Africa team at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), where she helped develop and support civic participation programs, including programs focused on women, youth, and civil society organizations. She earned a MA in international relations from the University of Chicago, was named a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow in 2010, and was selected to join the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders network in 2014.

Yiannis Boutaris received a degree in chemistry from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in 1965 and a diploma of oenology from the Wine Institute of Athens in 1967. From 1969 through 1996, he served successively as the managing director of the family wine industry, J. Boutari & Son S.A. In 1998, he founded the Kir Yianni winery. Mr. Boutaris served as a municipal councilor in Thessaloniki for two terms (2002-2006 and 2006-2010). He led “Protovoulia for Thessaloniki” for two successive municipal elections in 2006 and 2010 as a candidate for mayor, and was elected mayor of Thessaloniki in November 2010 (first term Jan 2011 – Aug 2014) and in May 2014 (present term Sept 2014 – Aug 2019).
Mr. Boutaris has served as president and as a member of the board of directors for numerous professional, cultural, and environmental organizations since 1980. He is also the founder of the Macedonian Museum of Modern Art (Thessaloniki) and Arcturos, a non-profit organization.

Tim Clancy has lived and worked in the Western Balkans since the early 1990s, first as an aid worker and later in the fields of tourism, environmental, and social development. He has written several travel guide books, including the Bradt Travel Guide to Bosnia and Herzegovina from the UK and Tirana Cityspots by Thomas Cook Publishing. He was a co-founder of Green Visions, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first social business dedicated to fair trade and green development. For the past ten years he has been deeply involved in the green side of tourism development with the UNDP, USAID, JICA, and other international and local agencies. Mr. Clancy is currently working on a regional eco-tourism project called Via Dinarica, a mega-trail that encompasses Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia.

Jelena Cosic has been the project manager for the BIRN Investigative Reporting Initiative for the past five years. She is in charge of investigative projects under BIRN HUB, “Paper Trail to Better Governance,” Summer School of Investigative Reporting, and Media to All.

Ivana Cvetkovic Bajrovic is a senior program officer at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) where she manages the democracy assistance program for Southeast Europe. Prior to joining NED in 2005, Ivana administered several USAID-funded development projects around the world, worked for the UN Information Center in Washington, and supported the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina immediately after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords. Ms. Cvetkovic Bajrovic serves as a leading resource for policy analysts and decision-makers in Washington on political developments in the Balkans, and has made a number of appearances in leading international media. Her book Mistakes Donors Make: Civil Society and Democracy Assistance in the Balkans was published in Serbia in 2011. Ivana received an MPA from Bowie State University and an MA in democracy and human rights from the University of Sarajevo/University of Bologna. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Biljana Dakic Djordjevic is the Executive Director of the Trag Foundation in Serbia. She has over fifteen years of professional experience in the non-profit sector, with extensive knowledge on fundraising and partnerships development, strategic planning, program management, and cross-sector cooperation. From 2012-2014, she worked with the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, managing BTD’s grantmaking activities in six countries in the Western Balkans. As the Development Director of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence from 2004-2012, Ms. Dakic Dordevic supported programs focused on the education and capacity building of political and public leaders in Serbia and the wider Balkan region. In addition to her key areas of expertise, Ms. Dakic Dordevic takes particular interest in issues related to women’s rights and citizen participation in decision-making processes.

Zefi Dimadama has led the International Centre for Black Sea Studies since July 2010. She holds a MSc in economic and regional development and a PhD in Environmental Policies and Regional Development from Panteion University. Dr. Dimadama has developed numerous research projects on economic and environmental policy in Greece, Germany, and the United Kingdom at the University of Bristol and Darmstadt University.
Dr. Dimadama is a member of the Scientific Board of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the International Committee of the Board on Enterprise Economic Development, the Regional Science Association (RSA), the European Urban Research Association (EURA), and the CLIMBIZ Scientific Advisory Committee "Climate Change Vulnerability and Impact Assessment Review for the Black Sea Region" (UNDP-Black Sea Trade & Investment Program).

Anna Dimitrova joined the Center for European Policy Studies in June 2014, after graduating from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Europe where she focused on energy, resources, and environment, and received the ENEL Spa Fellowship. Ms. Dimitrova is currently focusing on Europe’s internal gas and electricity markets, as well as the EU’s security of supply and future renewable energy sources policies.

Dorian Ducka has served as the Deputy Minister of Energy and Industry of Albania since October 2013. He previously served as the director of the European Integration and International Projects at the Ministry of the Economy, Trade, and Energy of Albania, a position he has held for the past three years from 2009-2013. Prior to joining the government, Mr. Ducka was the vice-international secretary at the International Department of the Socialist Movement for Integration for Albania, the third largest party in the country. He has founded and been involved in several Albanian non-governmental organizations, including the Albanian Free Forum, the IDEA Institute, and the Albanian Atlantic Association of Young Political Leaders, which promotes reconciliation, political cooperation, and youth empowerment in Albanian politics.
Mr. Ducka has been involved in international reconciliation and youth leadership in the Balkans and Europe. He has been a speaker at events hosted by the U.S. Congress, the UK House of Commons, and the Norwegian Stortingnet.
Mr. Ducka holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta, Cyprus and pursued postgraduate studies as a Chevening Scholar for Public Policy at Kings College London. He received additional advanced training from Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore, and the Vienna Diplomatic Academy in energy diplomacy. Mr. Ducka’s interests include traveling, books, investing in cooperation among the younger generation, international networking, reconciliation, transformational business, international security and democracy promotion, energy security, and diplomacy.
Mr. Ducka has been a board member for several national public companies in Albania, including the telecommunication companies Albtelecom, Trasmission System Operator, and Natural Resource Agency.

Romeo Ekonomidis is an intern with the Balkan Forum from Odessa, Ukraine. He received his bachelor degree in international relations at I.I.Mechnikov Odessa National University. From 2010 to 2011, he worked at AIESEC as an Outgoing Exchange coordinator in the Local Committee of Odessa. In March 2013, he was enrolled in scientific practice in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine in Kiev. Currently, Mr. Edonomidis is undertaking an MA in the Politics and Economics of Contemporary Eastern and Southeastern Europe at the University of Macedonia. He is fluent in English, Russian, Ukrainian and Greek.

Tryggvi Felixson is a senior adviser at the Nordic Council in Copenhagen. Before joining the Nordic Council in 2010, he served as head of the department for Environment and Resources at the Nordic Council of Ministers for four years. He is a resource economist and has worked for the Icelandic Government in the Central Bank of Iceland, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry for the Environment. He has also served as the managing director of an environmental NGO in Iceland.

Alkisti Florou supports the advocacy, policy and strategic planning efforts of the Aegean Energy Agency, an advisory body to a network of Aegean island municipalities working towards advancing sustainability goals in their territories. Previously, Ms. Florou worked on energy and climate policy at the European Climate Foundation in Brussels. Prior to that, she worked on marine and environment issues at the Cabinet of the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and the United Nations Environment Program. During her studies, Ms. Florou was involved in development projects with a focus on education and social integration. She holds an Msc in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.A. in European and International Studies from the Panteion University of Athens. A native Greek speaker, Ms. Florou also speaks English, French, and German, and is currently learning Spanish.

Kalinka Gaber is the program director at the Progress Institute for Social Democracy. She is a political scientist by vocation and a civic activist by dedication. With over 10 years of professional experience in the non-governmental sector, Ms. Gaber also had a brief stint as an adviser to the communications department of a political party and the Parliamentary Whip of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia. Ms. Gaber has engaged in the political education and training of young people in Macedonia and the region; written high quality analyses of current political issues and processes in the country and the Western Balkans region; and worked on policy development for various political issues focused on good governance and rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.

Ilir Gashi has served as the executive director of the Slavko Curuvija Foundation in Belgrade, Serbia, since June 2014. SCF is a small but growing media foundation working in the field of independent media and journalism development in Serbia. It has three key aims: supporting investigative journalism, developing local media, and educating students of journalism/young journalists.Mr. Gashi’s professional background and interests include journalism, human rights, social activism, public communications, and advertising.

Dennis Gratz graduated from the Law School of the University of Sarajevo and received his MA degree in democracy and human rights from Sarajevo and Bologna University. In 2003, he passed the bar examination, and in 2007, he was completed a PhD at the University of Hamburg. His thesis focused on the systematic war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia (theory of elitocide). He is currently lecturing as an assistant professor at the Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies of the University in Sarajevo and the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology. In 2009, Dr. Gratz was a Fulbright visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York. He was also a guest professor in 2010 at the University of Hamburg, Germany.
Dr. Gratz is the co-founder and president of Nasa stranka, a socio-liberal political party in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the national elections in October 2014, he was elected MP in the Federal Parliament.

Stephen Heintz has served as President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) since 2001. The RBF seeks to advance a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. Mr. Heintz was founding president of Dēmos which works to enhance the vitality of American democracy and promote economic opportunity. From 1990-1997, he served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the EastWest Institute (EWI), based in Prague. He devoted the first 15 years of his career to politics and government service in the State of Connecticut. He serves on several nonprofit boards and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Juliana Hoxha started Partners Albania in 2001 and continues to serve as the executive director. She has 20 years of experience in management and development, advocacy campaigns, training, and consultancy in the Western Balkans and Middle East. She has successfully worked with donors to secure overseas development assistance and helped lead the national advocacy campaign on enabling environment for NGOs in Albania. In December 2000, Ms. Hoxha was awarded the ORT/USAID International Award of Achievement for the Contribution to the Advancement of Civil Society in Albania. Ms. Hoxha holds a BA and MA in history from Tirana University, and a MSc in business management and ICT from Sheffield University. She is a Chevening and Harvard Kennedy School Fellow and speaks fluent English and Italian.

Dragana Ilic is a program assistant for the Western Balkans program at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Prior to joining the RBF in 2009, she was engaged in many projects as a research analyst, particularly in the field of evaluating the progress of policy reform initiatives. She worked as an assistant to the mayor of Strpce in Kosovo from 2002 to 2004 and as a human resources development specialist in the Ministry of Ecology in Serbia from 2005 to 2007. She earned her MA in psychology at the University of Belgrade. Dragana has trainer-level skills in mediation as a conflict resolution process and is a certified constructivist coach.

Nedim Jahic is a human rights activist involved in various initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina related to civic and political participation. Mr. Jahic writes for numerous magazines and web-portals, mostly focusing on elections, the rights of returnees, and issues of discrimination.

Luna Kalas holds an MA in peacekeeping management from Turin University and specializes in strengthening civil society in transitional and post conflict settings. She has worked to strengthen civil society participation and educational programs through the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Bosnia Herzegovina and the Office of Civil Affairs at the UN Mission in Nepal. Her experience includes building and coordinating networks, research, fundraising, human rights monitoring, conflict management, peace building, and volunteerism development.

Zorica Korac holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences and policy from Central European University, Budapest, and a BSc in Biology from Belgrade University. Since 2006, she has worked at the Regional Environmental Center (REC) country office in Serbia on civil society support, environmental education, and environmental health. Ms. Korac coordinated several projects focused on education for sustainable development, including the development of the Green Pack, a multimedia educational tool, the implementation of teacher trainings, and advocacy for policy changes in the region. Since 2013, Ms. Korac has worked as an expert on local governance in the REC Head Office in Szentendre.

Zoran Kordic is a Program Assistant at the United Nations Development Program in Croatia. Mr. Kordic holds an MSc in Electro Engineering and is researching the socio economic impacts of renewable energy cooperation mechanisms in South East Europe. He has experience in projects related to renewable energy and transition to low/post carbon society in the region.

Alma Kovacevic is a project coordinator at the Center for Environment and Energy, a position she has held for the past three years.

Fedja Kulenovic is an IT expert with a focus on knowledge management and information management. He teaches at the American University in Bosnia and Herzegovina and works with different organizations on the above mentioned issues. He also serves as an IT expert at USAID's Strengthening Independent Media, a project implemented by Internews.

Ioannis Liontos has been an alderman for infrastructure and energy in Ioannina Municipality since September 2014. Prior to this, he worked as a franchisor at a private furniture company. After graduating from Dimocritus University of Thrace, Xanthi, he ran his own business and was engaged in the construction of Egnatia Odos Highway.

Leonidas Makris has worked as an advisor to the mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris, since July 2012. Dr. Makris’ responsibilities include working on the political agenda of the mayor as well as addressing issues of political strategy and administrational change. Since February 2012, Dr. Makris has taught in the department of social policy and political science at the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece, on the subjects of political communication, comparative politics, state and society, democracy and dictatorship, social movements, and history of political ideas. From 2010 to 2012, Dr. Makris was a lecturer in the BSc program in politics and international relations at the DEI College, University of London, Registered Centre, on comparative politics, democracy and democratization, and international institutions.
Dr. Makris holds a PhD in political science from the London School of Economics, and is also a licensed psychologist. He focused previously on counseling individuals with minor psychological disorders, conducting personality assessments, and evaluating mental conditions according to DSM-III-R. He is fluent in Greek, English, and Spanish.

Antonis Metaxas is a lecturer in EU law at the University of Athens and a visiting professor of energy law at the International Hellenic University. He is also managing partner of the law firm Metaxas & Associates. M&A is a prominent law firm with a dominant presence in the Greek legal market, especially in the fields of its core specialization – energy, business Law, and EU law issues. Dr. Metaxas is chairman of the board of the Hellenic State Aid Institute and of the Hellenic Energy Regulation Institute.

Jelena Milic is among the most influential political analysts in Serbia and the Western Balkans region. Previously, she worked with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro and of Serbia, Goran Svilanovic, during his mandate in the Stability Pact for South East Europe at the Department for Democracy and Human Rights. Prior to this, she worked as a political analyst and researcher for the International Crisis Group.

Cameron Munter retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2012. He now advises investors in the Balkans, Central Europe, and South Asia, and is a professor of international relations at Pomona College in California. During his three decades in diplomacy, he was ambassador to Pakistan and Serbia and served in Iraq, Poland, and numerous other assignments in Washington D.C. and overseas.

Samira Nuhanovic Ribic is currently a research associate at the Foreign Policy Initiative BiH, where her work centers on projects that address rural development issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is a doctoral candidate at the School of Social Sciences, University of Trento, and the European Research Center for Cooperatives and Social Enterprises in Italy. Her research focuses on the potential of cooperatives to address government and market failures and agriculture through alternative ways of conceptualizing rural development in the democracy deficient setting Bosnia Herzegovina. Ms. Nuhanovic Ribic completed her undergraduate studies in international relations at the International Islamic University, Malaysia, and holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Cambridge, UK. Over the past ten years, she has worked in academia, with public officials as a political advisor, and with a number of NGOs in Bosnia Herzegovina and abroad.

Ariadne Papagapitos is the program director for the Peacebuilding program of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Prior to joining the Fund in 2007, she helped lead a microfinance project with a nongovernmental organization in Bangalore, India. She has also worked as a researcher for a human rights lawyer in London, at the UNFPA, and at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Athens, Greece. Ms. Papagapitos was also a manager in the Media Villages department of the 2004 Athens Olympic Committee where she helped coordinate the international press delegations’ reporting from Greece. She holds a Master of Science in human rights with a concentration in human rights law from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.A. in classics from Union College, where she studied and worked in Kenya. She currently serves on the board of Rising Tide Capital, an organization that assists struggling entrepreneurs in distressed urban communities to establish strong businesses and create sustainable neighborhoods, and she represents the RBF on the Connect U.S. Fund Council and the Peace and Security Funders Group steering committee. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Harry Papapanagos is a professor of economics in the department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies at the University of Macedonia, and a visiting professor at Hellenic International University and the Supreme Joint War College. He is a member of the scientific staff of the Hellenic Open University, a founding member and member of the advisory board of the European Economics and Finance Society, and a scientific coordinator for research projects financed by the European Union. Mr. Papapanagos served as vice rector of the University of Macedonia, and as head of the departments of Balkan, Slavic, and Oriental Studies and Management and Technology. He was a visiting professor at the Command and General Staff College in the Department of Psychological Operations, and in the Police Academy. Mr. Papapanagos also served as an advisor to the British House of Lords and an economic advisor to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Julian Popov is a fellow of the European Climate Foundation, chairman of the Building Performance Institute Europe, and energy security adviser to the President of Bulgaria. He leads the South East Europe Grid Initiative, which catalyzes high level energy policy cooperation among countries in wider South East Europe, including Turkey and the Western Balkans. Mr. Popov is the former Minister of Environment in Bulgaria, a founding vice chancellor and current board member of the New Bulgarian University, former chairman and current board member of the Bulgarian School of Politics and co-founder of the Tunisian School of Politics, established following the Arab Spring. Mr. Popov has authored two books and publishes regularly on current affairs and energy policy.

Helena Qirici is program coordinator for the Balkan Forum. She is currently undertaking a master’s program on the politics and economics of contemporary Eastern and Southeastern Europe at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece. Helena holds a BA in political science and public administration from Kapodistrian University of Athens. She worked as an intern for the Western Balkans program at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and for UNHCR in Tirana, Albania. She is fluent in English, Albanian, Greek, and knows basic Italian.

Boris Raonic is from Podgorica. In the early 1990s he was an active member of the political party LSCG, and founded several of Montenegro’s first NGOs during his studies at the Faculty of Law. Previously, Mr. Raonic was a journalist and has worked at the Nancen Dialogue Center since 2000.
Mr. Raonic has authored numerous articles on the subjects of dialogue, tolerance, political culture, dispute resolution, and he has produced two documentary films. Mr. Raonic was previously a member of the National Council for European Integration and is currently the director of the School of Democratic Leadership. He is a member of several NGO managing authorities.

Damijan Sedar has worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Slovenia since 2000. Mr. Sedar has held positions at the consulate in Munich, the office of the Permanent Representative to the EU in Brussels, as a political advisor in Skopje, and as head of the ministry’s Western Balkans division in Ljubljana. Since 2012, Mr. Sedar has worked with the EU Special Representative in Kosovo on regional cooperation in the Western Balkans. He holds a BA in international relations from the University of Ljubljana. Mr. Sedar is fluent in Slovenian, English, German, Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, and French, and has a basic knowledge of Albanian and Farsi.

Dardan Sejdiu is the deputy mayor of Pristina Municipality as of January 2014. For two years he worked as the managing director of “Nest Kosovo”, an SHM Production Ltd. enterprise based in London. For four years, he was the president of the management board of the Slovenian-Kosovar Pension Fund, and was responsible for the overall management of the fund and its assets. He has served for four years as the retail banking director at ProCredit Bank, the largest commercial bank in Kosovo. Mr. Sejdiu holds a BA in business administration and political sciences from the American University in Bulgaria, an MBA from the IEDC - Bled School of Management, Slovenia, and is a fellow of the German Marshall Memorial Fund. Mr. Sejdiu is member of The Movement for Self-Determination and was a member of its presidency for three years.

Jasna Sekulovic works as a project manager at the GIZ Open Regional Fund for South East Europe -Energy Efficiency and is responsible for cooperation with the schools for political studies in South East Europe on the project, “Public Dialogue on Sustainable Use of Energy in SEE,” as well as for a project on raising awareness on energy efficiency in the capital cities of SEE. Since 2008, Ms. Sekulovic has worked at GIZ on many different projects in the field of energy efficiency.

Nikos Servos is an intern with the Balkan Forum. Previously, he served as assistant director, technical director, and managing director at NGP Newman Group, provider of professional sound systems. Mr. Servos holds a BA in International Relations and Diplomacy from the the American College of Thessaloniki and is fluent in Greek and English.

Ryan Stoner became chief of the Political and Economic Section of the U.S. Embassy Skopje in June 2014, after serving as the deputy section chief for three years. Before Skopje, Mr. Stoner served as an economic officer in Ottawa and Beijing, and a consular officer in Taipei. Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 2002, Ryan was a financial advisor in Louisville, Kentucky, with Waddell & Reed. He has a degree in economics and government from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Paul Stubbs is a UK-born sociologist who has lived and worked in Croatia since 1993. Since 2003 he has worked in the Institute of Economics, Zagreb. His main research, activism, and advocacy interests include social movements, social protection, child rights, and eco-social policies in South East Europe. He is an elected member of the Croatian Council for Science, Higher Education and Technology.

Despina Syrri is an adviser for the political department of the Regional Cooperation Council. She was previously the director of research and international cooperation at the Immigration Policy Institute in Greece, and has collaborated with Reuters, the Athens News Agency, Berlin Migration Netzwerk, the British Council, Refugee Studies Centre Oxford, ELIAMEP, Deusto University, and the EastWest Institute on issues of development, human rights, social inclusion, migration, asylum, borders, and Western Balkans integration to the European Union, including election observation with OSCE/ODIHR. Ms. Syrri has taught political science and political anthropology at the American College of Thessaloniki, worked with international organizations and NGOs in Southern Africa, East Europe, and South East Europe, published journal articles and book chapters in Greek, South Slavic, and English, and authored research papers, citizens’ media, and documentaries.

Marika Theros is chair of the advisory board of the Balkan Forum. She is a governance and human rights professional with over ten years of experience working at the intersection of public policy, academia, and field-level development. Ms. Theros has served as a consultant and researcher for government, civil society, and public policy organizations. She has worked at, and published for, the London School of Economics on issues of conflict, security, and justice, and has worked in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Serbia, and Qatar on civil society, human rights, labor issues, and development programs.

Hoskuldur Thorhallsson has been a member of Althingi, the Parliament of Iceland, since 2007. He is a member of the Environment and Communications Committee of Althingi and has served as its chairman since 2013. Mr. Thorhallson has been a member and chairman of the Icelandic Delegation to the Nordic Council, the inter-parliamentary body of Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Åland, since 2013.
He has been president of the Nordic Council since 2015.

Giorgos Triantafyllou is a research fellow at the South-East Europe Program at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). His research interests include international relations and security; conflict in the Balkans; international institutions and peace operations; peacebuilding and state building, NATO and the UN. Mr. Triantafyllou holds a PhD in international conflict analysis from the University of Kent with a particular focus on the provision of security during peacebuilding operations in the Balkans. Before joining ELIAMEP, Mr. Triantafyllou was a consultant for the Western Balkans and Peacebuilding programs of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and contributed to the first Balkan Forum in 2013. He is a member of the International Studies Association, and has presented various papers at many major international conferences. Between 2008 and 2012, Mr. Triantafyllou was an assistant lecturer at the University of Kent, teaching international history, international relations, and international governance. Mr. Triantafyllou speaks Greek, English, French, and basic Serbian.

Larus Valgardsson has been an advisor on international affairs at the Parliament of Iceland since 2006. Additionally, Mr. Valgardsson has been the Secretary for the Icelandic Delegation to the Nordic Council, the inter-parliamentary body of Denmar, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Åland, since 2006.

Dobrica Veselinovic is a graduate student at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Belgrade. He has been active in the civil sector for the last 10 years, and for the last several years he has fought for public spaces and greater citizen participation in decision-making processes, particularly on urban development issues. Mr. Veselinovic’s areas of interest include political theory, ecology and urban development, and countercultural movements. He has attended numerous summer schools, seminars, and debates in Serbia and abroad.

Ljubisa Vrencev has authored numerous publications and is an expert on communications and new technologies. Since 1997, he has worked with various national and international NGOs on migration and anti-discrimination in Greece, and on local development and forced migration in Serbia, FYR Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. He has worked as a consultant for the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Cooperazione Italiana, and the International Organization for Migration on research projects focused on the assessment of refugee camps and on policy development for the sustainable return of Serbian IDPs from Kosovo. Mr. Vrencev holds a master’s degree in local development for the Balkans from the University of Trento. He has been a lecturer for numerous seminars and conferences. He is currently the program director at Symbiosis, and was previously a program coordinator at the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence and the manager of the Public Dialogue Initiative on Sustainable Use of Energy in Southeastern Europe.

Emmanouil Vournous holds a degree in architecture and a MA in conservation. He has worked on conservation projects and contemporary architecture in a historic context. His research topics include the historic architecture of Chios Island since the 14th century. He has published papers on ecclesiastical architecture, late medieval fortifications, the origins and evolution of vernacular settlements, and the architecture of mansion houses.
In May 2014, Mr. Vournous was elected Mayor of Chios, leading a group of people who had not been previously involved in politics before.

Bodo Weber is a senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council (DPC). He is a longtime analyst of Western Balkan policy and society, Germany and the Common European Foreign and Security Policy, transatlantic relations, Western rule of law promotion, and security sector reform. Mr. Weber also works as a political consultant for political foundations and international organizations in Germany and the Balkans. In the 1990s, he worked as an editor with the journal Perspektiven (Frankfurt/Main), and served as a board member of the Bosnien-Büro Frankfurt. He has published numerous articles and analytical papers on politics and societies in the Balkans, and on post-conflict peacebuilding, democratization, and German foreign policy. Mr. Weber has also published articles and op-eds in various journals and papers and regularly appears as a commentator in the Southeast European media. Mr. Weber holds an MA in political science from the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-University in Frankfurt/Main. He lives in Berlin.

Alexander Wojda grew up in Vienna. He holds a Master of Arts in diplomacy, law, and global change from the Coventry University, UK, as well as a PhD in law from the University of Innsbruck, Austria. He started his diplomatic career in 1999 at the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Austrian Foreign Ministry. He was then posted to The Hague (2001), the Permanent Missions of Austria to the UN in Vienna (2002) and Geneva (2003-2006), as well as to the Austrian Embassy in Sofia, where he made his first encounters with the Balkans from 2007 to 2010. From July 2010 to July 2014, Mr. Wojda worked at the cultural directorate of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs in Vienna, where he was head of the task force “Dialogue of Cultures”. Since August 2014, Mr. Wojda has been the Deputy Head of Mission, and since February 2015, the Chargé d’affaires a.i., at the Austrian Embassy in Athens.

Miroslav Zivanovic currently works for the Human Rights Centre of the University of Sarajevo. He is responsible for its programs and projects in the field of human rights education, reporting, and research. Mr. Zivanovic graduated from the University of Sarajevo in comparative literature and librarianship, and obtained his master’s degree in state management and humanitarian affairs from the University of Sarajevo, University of Belgrade, and University of Rome “La Sapienza”.

Konstantina Zoehrer is a political scientist and social researcher with experience in political and social advocacy, public policy, social entrepreneurship and innovation, inclusive labor market grassroots/informal groups, and intercultural dialogue and collaboration. In 2013, she co-founded 180º (180 Moires); a social enterprise that works with socially and economically excluded groups to research, design, and develop tools and solutions to transform unemployment.
Ms. Zoehrer is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, and a member of the International Comparative Social Enterprise Models Project (ICSEM). In 2014, she received a “Young Innovator” award from the A.T. Kearney -Falling Walls Lab Scholarship for 180 Moires' work on inclusive employment.


Final Report of the Second Annual Balkan Forum will be available by May 2015.The Annual Forum gathers diverse stakeholders and leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.