The time when the Balkans can be on the back-burner in terms of policies is fast coming to an end. It’s no longer enough just to handle the crisis of the moment, but necessary to deliver a strategy for the entire region that is comprehensive, clear and credible.
For too long, the talk was mainly about devising an exit strategy for NATO, when the key task is really to develop an entry strategy for the European Union. Increasingly, there is the realisation that without such a strategy the tactics of dealing with the individual challenges from
This might not be the best of times to talk about starting bringing new members into the European Union. There is a noticeable enlargement fatigue in many of the existing EU members. At the same time, it is obvious that several of the countries in the region are at a considerable distance from meeting the
But ten years after the peace in
The recent report of the International Commission on the Balkans does recognize the necessity of both dealing with the painful and unresolved status issue of Kosovo and of devising a coherent European strategy for the region and sees the intimate link between the two. It’s only within the framework of the later that the former can be handled.
There are obvious risks in the Kosovo situation. At the moment we see the economy declining at the same time as frustration is building up. It makes little sense to make the UN the scapegoat – the UN mission was set up for failure when the key powers for years simply refused to deal with the status issues. As has happened before, the UN was ordered to implement a policy that just as well could have been devised by an ostrich as by the Security Council.
Seen in isolation, we might well be on our way towards setting up a failed state in Kosovo. There is talk of it as a centre of organized criminality, and in view of the absence of honest alternatives for the rapidly growing population this would hardly be surprising. The political system seems to be driven by an unhealthy tendency towards revenge for real or imagined events in the past.
Nevertheless, there aren’t very many other alternatives than to continue along the path of state-building in Kosovo, and in the view of the European perspectives of the region, the aim ought to be that Kosovo gets the its full independence as it enters the framework of interdependence of the European Union.
In the meantime, the present holding operation of the UN should be replaced by a more focused member state-building operation under the direction of the EU, although still with the authority of the UN.
There will also have to be a far more effective effort at integrating all the economies of the region – irrespectively of if they met the political criteria for become candidates for membership or not – with both each other and the European Union. The extension of the customs union of the EU to the entire region, certainly including also Kosovo, could be as positive for its economy as it proved to be for
There are no easy or fast solutions to the remaining issues on the table. But if Kosovo status issues and customs union arrangements are sorted out during the period of this European Commission and Parliament, a fast track for membership for those ready for it should be perfectly realistic during the coming five-year period.
It was in the summer of 1914 in the Balkans that a long period of relative prosperity and peace for
It’s possible, but it requires far-sighted and determined policies – and it requires them now.