Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Balkan Concerns One Year Later

It's Europe Day, and one year after we presented our report, the members of the International Commission on the Balkans meet again in a slightly rainy Rome to discuss where we stand with the international policies towards the region.

As presented at a press conference under the chairmanship of Giuliano Amato, it was a rather downbeat assessment.

What is happening is that Europe is slowly backing away from its commitment to the Balkans - and the Balkans is slowly backing away from its commitment to Europe.

It's not dramatically visible on a daily basis. But for those of us following the more long-term trend, the change is visible and worrying. And there is a growing sense of alarm among Balkan observers over what might be the long-term consequences of this gradual slide of policies.

You see the big change in the smaller things.

Failure by the Bosnian parliament to agree to rather limited constitutional changes. Failure by the Serb authorities to apprehend or otherwise deal with the Mladic issue. Difficulties in getting real status negotiations on Kosovo going.

Without a clear European accession perspective, the politics of the Balkan starts drifting again, reforms begin to stall and new risks start to appear on the horizon.

We'll see if our message of concern - even alarm - from Rome is heard.

In June the European Council will discuss also the future enlargement strategy for the European Union.

Will they sink the Balkans - or will they give the peoples of the region new hope?