Is EPP Blocking the Balkans?
It's far from clear what the centre-right European People's Party at its Congress in Rome in the last few days really wanted to say concerning the further enlargement of the European Union.
But the combination of a muddled text from the congress and very clear language from primarily German CSU leader Edmund Stoiber unfortunately invites the suspicion that there are significant voices that want to bloc the rest of the Balkans from becoming members.
They are playing around with the future stability of Europe.
Croatia is in a separate leauge since accession negotiations with the European Union have already started. But also here EPP says that there has to be treaty revisions before any new members beyond Bulgaria and Romania can be let in. And the EPP seems to say that nothing less than the full Constitutional Treaty will do.
This is an impossible position. Croatia is on its way, and the full Constitutional Treaty is dead. The EPP will have to eat its words.
But it's when it comes to what happens thereafter that it becomes really muddled and dangereous.
The final declaration sets out to describe some sort of alternative to membership that will be offered the undisclosed aspirants that the EPP isn't very keen on letting in:
"By the means of an especially close partnership, a common economic area could be created to the benefit of both the countries concerned and the EU itself. However, it should be more than a “European Economic Area”. It should include close political consultation, especially in the areas of Justice and Home Affairs (border control, cooperation in juridical affairs, the protection of human rights, exchange of information about human trafficking and drugs), as well as Foreign and Security Policy (especially the common fight against terrorism) and respect of the external borders of the Union. The EU should encourage these states to commit themselves to stronger regional cooperation amongst themselves. This would enable Europe to strengthen peace and stability as well as economic prosperity, throughout the continent, by alternative means to membership."
The fact that one speaks about stronger regional cooperation strongly implies that it is the rest of the Western Balkans one is talking about.
It can't really be Turkey, and it can't really be asking Ukraine to cooperate more closely with Russia.
What will be offered here is a satellite relationship without any right of influence over the decisions.
I do not think that this is an offer that will be easily taken up. The nationalist forces will see it as Europe rejecting their countries - which will be a correct interpretation - and go for their own way of shaping the future.
And with more nationalist forces then dominating the politics of the Balkans - rest assured that we are heading for more of trouble.
Well before that, we will see the policies of conditionality of the European Union losing their impact. At the moment we can demand changes of actions since these are necessary in order to move towards membership.
But what can we demand when we say that we would reject them as members? The risk is that they will laugh at us...
I find it highly regrettable that the EPP is turning into a more inward-looking group, less concerned with Europe as a whole or its standing in the world than with bowing to the pressures of the day.
It's a deeply muddled text they have produced.
I expect them to explain what they really mean.