Friday, December 09, 2005

Interim Plan for Balkans

During the last week I have been in numerous discussions on how the European Union should move forward with its policies in Southeastern Europe.

Some things are moving forward. So called SAA negotiations have now been started with both Bosnia and Serbia.

Other things might be moving as well. The European Council next week ought to follow the Commissions recommendation and give candidate status to Macedonia, although France has been trying stop the entire thing. But when Angela Merkel went to the Elysée Palace for the first time and made clear her support, the issue was evidently settled.

And then there are of course the Kosovo negotiations. Teams are now being formed, and things will start to get more serious in the beginning of the new year.

When we issued the report of the International Commission on the Balkans in March of this year, one of our ideas was to develop a more advanced pre-membership option for these and possible other countries. In economic terms, this should be based on them becoming members of the customs union of the European Union, thus driving trade integration and economic reform.

The case of Turkey since 1996 clearly shows how succesful such an approach can be.

The idea seems to be gathering a certain amount of momentum. in a recent paper, Michael Emerson at CEPS in Brussels takes up and develops the idea, combining them also with the need to do more to facilitate the freer movement of people in the region.

It remains to be seen how ambitious the Commission will be in its approach.

It is now preparing a paper to be the basis for the meeting that will be held in Salzburg in early March under the Austrian presidency. That meeting will take stock of developments in the region and chart the way forward.

Someone has to take the policy lead on these important issues - it remains to be seen if the European Commission will do it.

Book Store