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Florence School of Transnational Governance - European University Institute

Preparing Western Balkan Diplomats for EU integration

The Florence School of Transnational Governance (STG) hosted the third edition of the “Capacity Building Programme for Junior Diplomats of the Western Balkans”, funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

05 July 2024 | Event - Partnership

Palazzo Medici Riccardi - Group Picture

From 3 to 12 June 2024, 18 diplomats from the Western Balkans selected by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation attended a capacity-building programme organised by the Florence STG.

Building on the success of the two previous editions in 2022 and 2023, this ten-day programme aimed at developing the skills and knowledge of junior Western Balkan diplomats, enabling them to effectively analyse, act, and negotiate as representatives of countries aspiring to join the EU.

After a first opening and introductory session at Palazzo Buontalenti with Nicola Verola, Director General for Europe and International Commercial Policies at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the course developed on three main pillars: EU policymaking fundamentals, diplomatic skills, and policy priorities in the Western Balkans.


EU Policymaking fundamentals

The sessions on EU policymaking provided comprehensive insights into EU institutions and enlargement policies. Renowned policy experts such as Nathalie Tocci, Clive Rumbold, Petra Mahnič, and Miroslav Lajčák, offered in-depth analysis of the complex relationships between EU policies and decision-making processes. Special emphasis was given to the mechanics of EU enlargement and the EU Foreign Policy in the Western Balkans, with a highlight session at Palazzo Medici Riccardi, seat of the Metropolitan City of Florence, featuring Laurence Boone, former Secretary of State for European Affairs of France, and Florence STG Acting Director George Papakonstantinou.


Diplomatic skills

The programme’s capacity-building component emphasised enhancing diplomatic skills through a series of expert-led sessions. STG Adjunct Professor Florian Eder focused on policy communication, while Nad'a Kovalčíková, Haris Avdic Pejicic, Rolf Nijmeijer, Tijana Moraca, and Federico Giulio Sicurella addressed Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference (FIMI) in the region. Additionally, sessions on international security, the role of NATO, and the Chinese influence in Europe were conducted by Valbona Zeneli, while Professor Trine Flockhart led a workshop on strategic foresight skills.


Policy priorities for the Western Balkans

Final sessions addressed three EU policy priorities: climate, digitalisation, and AI. STG Senior Research Fellow Christian Egenhofer discussed the implications of EU climate and energy policies for the Western Balkans, while Nacho Sanchez Amor, Member of the European Parliament, analysed disinformation and foreign interference during the political campaign for the European Parliament elections. Finally, STG Research Fellow Marta Cantero Gamito explored the challenge of digitalisation and AI in European policymaking.


Enlarge the context

Participants expressed their profound satisfaction with this learning experience: “Interacting with EU officials and experts on a wide range of topics was truly eye-opening", remarked one of the diplomats. The course was further enriched by various social activities and museum visits, such as the trip to Musei Capitolini in Rome, fostering strong bonds among participants and enhancing the overall success of the programme.

Looking ahead, EUI Secretary General Marco Del Panta confirmed that the institute remains dedicated to cultivating the skills and knowledge necessary for the future leaders of the Western Balkans, contributing to their journey towards EU integration.

STG Executive Director Fabrizio Tassinari echoed this sentiment during the closing ceremony, quoting British diplomat Robert Francis Cooper: “If there is a problem, the best thing to do is to enlarge the context.” He added, “This training and experience was an opportunity to broaden your horizons, lifting your perspective beyond everyday work. You proved that there is wisdom in you and that there is a generational shift that must be part of the way we think about the future of the Western Balkans.”

Following the positive messages of her colleagues, Kristin Fabbe, Director of STG Executive Education, closed the ceremony on an optimistic note: "This is not a goodbye or an end: I hope this is a big hello and welcome".


To learn more about the initiatives in the context of executive education at the Florence School of Transnational Governance, visit our website.

Last update: 05 July 2024

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