Members of Parliament Gathered Virtually for Marshall Center and U.S. House Democracy Partnership Virtual Seminar
By College of International and Security Studies
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (April 15, 2021) — On April 8, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies partnered with the U.S. House Democracy Partnership to conduct a 90 minute virtual seminar with members of the Western Balkans parliament. More than 20 politicians from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia took part in the exchange, which focused on the role of parliaments during the pandemic, the policies governments and parliaments adopted to mitigate economic and social challenges, the role of legislatures in overseeing the implementation of policies, and economic support packages.
The event was opened by U.S. Rep. David Price, chairman of the HDP and retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, director of the Marshall Center. In his opening remarks Dayton emphasized, “The Western Balkans is an area of primary interest, and strengthening the role of parliaments is important to foster good governance and transparency in the region, key to the Euro-Atlantic integration.” Price said, “Democracy is always a work in progress. Whether it is the oldest or the youngest, we all face common challenges, and we need to continuously strengthen and effectively safeguard our democratic institutions. Our democratic values are what we share.”
The discussions focused on issues of transparency, rule of law, good governance and democratic development, which are important for the Western Balkan countries. Politicians from the region emphasized that the fragility of the young democracies in the region makes it more difficult to handle the pandemic, considering the lack of institutional resilience. U.S. Reps. Gerald Connolly and Jeff Fortenberry also participated in the virtual seminar.
The discussion resulted in a successful exchange of ideas with both sides expressing support for continuing the dialogue on a regular basis. The parliamentarians expressed their appreciation for the work the Marshall Center and HDP have done to increase the parliamentarians’ capacity in the region and to foster the development of effective, independent, and responsive legislative institutions.
Participants called for a more active U.S. engagement in the region to promote democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration. Additionally, participants exchanged ideas about the need to invest in digital technologies to enhance economic development in the Western Balkans and foster regional economic integration.
“The Marshall Center and HDP have created a partnership in recent years to work with parliamentarians primarily from Europe and Central Asia on security sector issues. Based on our successful cooperation, we are planning several virtual events, and an important one-week program for parliamentarians to be held at the Marshall Center in spring 2022,” said Dr. Valbona Zeneli, chair of the Strategic Initiatives at the Marshall Center and seminar moderator.
The HDP is a bipartisan commission that works directly with countries around the world to support the development of effective, independent, and responsive legislative institutions.
The Marshall Center is a 27-year-old German-American security partnership that has produced generations of global security professionals schooled in American and German security policies.