The pull of Brussels
Erstellt von GregorSamsa, 16.10.2011, 13:40 Uhr · 1 Antwort · 363 Aufrufe
The pull of Brussels
At least the western Balkans is still starry-eyed about the European Union
Oct 15th 2011 |
IF GOVERNMENTS tweeted what they thought, it would be easy to sum up what those in the western Balkans felt this week: “phew!” from Serbia, “yeah!” from Montenegro and “meh”, the equivalent of shrugged shoulders, from everybody else. Every year the European Commission assesses progress by would-be members of the European Union. It is the day when they “see themselves in the mirror”, comments one diplomat in Brussels, “and the picture is pretty accurate.”
This year’s reports, published on October 12th, were awaited impatiently in Serbia and Montenegro. For the Serbs the question was: would the commission recommend that Serbia be made an official EU candidate? Over the past year the government’s strategy has aimed at candidacy by the end of 2011, with a view to using this as a boost in the election next spring.
In May, when Serbian police arrested first Ratko Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb general indicted for genocide by the UN war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, and then Goran Hadzic, their final fugitive from international justice, candidate status seemed assured. But Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, has got in the way. Neighbourly relations are a prerequisite for progress towards the EU. Keen to win candidate status even though (like five of 27 EU members) it does not recognise its former province, Serbia began commission-sponsored talks with Kosovo. But the talks have stalled, amid violent incidents in the Serb-inhabited north of Kosovo and roads blocked by Serb barricades. Serbia’s government has a hard path to tread. For domestic reasons, it cannot let down Serbs in Kosovo, whatever they do; but neither can it seem obstructive in the talks sponsored by the commission, since it is desperate to join the EU.
The commission thinks Serbia has done enough to merit candidate status subject to “significant progress” in the Kosovo talks. But the last word lies with EU governments in December. In the next two months Serbia will have to convince sceptics like Germany that it is committed to a lasting settlement with Kosovo.
Montenegro, which has been a candidate since December 2010, is more chipper. Last year the commission gave its government seven areas to work on. This year it is rewarded with a recommendation that the EU set a date for accession talks to begin. Montenegro gets a special pat on the back for its fight against organised crime. Croatia likewise gets a good report, but it had already been cleared to join in 2013.
That is where the good news ends. For Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia the joke is that they are getting not progress but stagnation reports. Albania has been paralysed by political deadlock since a disputed election in June 2009. High-level corruption is a big concern. Kosovo is seen to have made only limited progress, although there is a chance its government may soon start talking to the EU about visa-free access to the 25-strong Schengen area later this year. Kosovars are now the only people in the Balkans without this.
Bosnia has been stagnating for five years now. It has been without a new government for over a year, so vital legislation has not been passed. Macedonia has been a candidate since 2005. Although the commission points to worries over the hotly contested matter of media freedom and implies that the erection of a statue of Alexander the Great in Skopje was a provocative gesture, it recommends for the third time that the country be given a date to start accession talks. Yet because of its 20-year-old name dispute with Greece, including an international court case brought by the Macedonians, the Greeks will veto this proposal in December.
With the euro in crisis and the EU under extraordinary stress, some might wonder why the western Balkan states are so keen to join. In fact, no country will follow Croatia for many years, but the answer is still simple enough. Compliance with thousands of pages of EU legislation is a textbook for modernisation. That EU members often do not live up to the rules is no reason for the Balkans not to do so. Milan Rocen, Montenegro’s foreign minister, said recently that, thanks to the EU, his country had made more reforms in one year than it would have managed on its own in ten.
For the western Balkans the transition from years of disintegration and war never seems to end. But the pull of Brussels remains strong. There is also an element of competition. Croatia’s accession in 2013 and Montenegro’s lead are spurring the Serbs to work harder. This dynamic is well understood. Petrit Selimi, Kosovo’s deputy foreign minister, says “we are the last to start and catching up rather fast.”
das sagt alles
With the euro in crisis and the EU under extraordinary stress, some might wonder why the western Balkan states are so keen to join. In fact, no country will follow Croatia for many years
, but the answer is still simple enough.