Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia Photo: Körber-Stiftung
Field Trip through North Macedonia and Albania
13 to 18 June 2022
After a two-year break due to Covid, the time had come again in June 2022: The annual field trip of the Körber Foreign Policy Network led the members to North Macedonia and Albania.
The starting point of the trip was Skopje. The first day of the diverse program began with an exchange with Dragan Nikolic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Defense. The discussion focused on North Macedonia's NATO membership and the development of the country's cyber capabilities. After this interesting tour d`horizon of security and defense policy, the group continued to the German Embassy in Skopje. There, it was welcomed by Ambassador Anke Holstein. Over a cup of coffee, the experienced diplomat gave the guests a briefing on the German perspective on current political developments in North Macedonia and the region.
The follow-up meeting took the participants to the country's seat of government, where they were welcomed by Edmond Ademi, the foreign policy advisor to the Social Democratic Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski. As in many of the meetings in Skopje the discussion focused on the country's perspective to join the EU. Ademi made it clear that EU accession is the top priority for all actors of the Macedonian political landscape. The day continued with a meeting with Zoran Popov, who, as State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, presented his ministry's view of the most important regional and European policy issues. A discussion with Radmila Šekerinska concluded the day. In her presentation, the former Minister of Defense and party leader of the Macedonian Social Democrats not only traced the major lines of Macedonian policy in recent years, but also addressed the current challenges facing the government. The day was rounded off by a joint dinner with representatives of Macedonian youth organizations, who not only talked about their work but also reported on the concerns and hopes of the young generation. In addition, a delicious Macedonian meal was served and explained by the restaurant owner, so that the group had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the typical cuisine of the country.
The second day started with a meeting with two experts from the Macedonian think tank community. From public opinion on EU enlargement policy to the role of think tanks in North Macedonia - it was a wide range of topics that the group was able to discuss with Simonida Kacarska, Director of the European Policy Institute (EPI), and Marko Trosanovski, President of the Institute for Democracy "Societas Civilis" Skopje.
The next item on the agenda took the travelers out of the meeting rooms and into the center of the capital. On a guided tour, the group learned about the city's turbulent history and diverse architecture. For its last meeting in Skopje, the group headed to St. Cyril and Methodius University to speak with Aleksandar Spasenovski. The professor at the Faculty of Law and former MP complemented the group's previous insights and perceptions with a journey through Macedonian history and politics.
Full of impressions, the group set off from there towards Lake Ohrid. There followed a guided tour that focused on the role of religion in North Macedonia, leading the group not only to the sight of unique frescoes in the local Orthodox churches, but also addressing interfaith coexistence.
The second part of the field trip began with the journey from Ohrid to Tirana, which took the group to Albania. The programme began with a discussion with Deputy Foreign Minister Megi Fino and other representatives of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs on the prospects for EU accession negotiations, Albania's membership in the United Nations Security Council, the Open Balkans Initiative and the impact of the war in Ukraine. Afterwards, the group met representatives of German political foundations and Albanian civil society at a reception at the residence of German Ambassador Peter Zingraf.
On the penultimate day of the trip, the day began with a breakfast with the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, followed by a visit to the Parliament and a conversation with Jorida Tabaku, MP and representative of the largest Albanian opposition party, the Democratic Party of Albania. Topics such as EU accession, the political situation in the Balkans, the influence of Russia and the fight against corruption and organized crime dominated the conversation.
In the afternoon, the group met with Gresa Hasa, activist and editor of Shota magazine, and Kristina Voko, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania, for a discussion on press freedom, the role of civil society in Albania, and the 2018/2019 student protests. This was followed by a visit to the Tulla Cultural Center and a discussion on rural development and agriculture in Albania. At the end of the day, the group met with Jonila Godole from the Institute for Democracy, Media and Culture and learned a lot about the organization's work on collective memory and remembrance of Albanian history under Enver Hoxha's dictatorship and the still very reluctant reexamination and processing of this period.
The last day of the trip was dedicated to Albanian history: After a guided tour through the museum Bunk'art 1, which focused on the politics and society of Albania under Enver Hoxha's dictatorship, the group traveled even further back in time during a visit to Kruja and walked in the footsteps of Skanderbeg - the national hero of Albania - before returning to Berlin in the evening.
Since 2005, more than 14 Field Trips of the Körber Foreign Policy Network have taken place in more than 18 countries. Here is an overview of the destinations: