Euroteka – 7.05.2004.

Alain Lamassoure (rod. 1944. g.) diplomirao je na pariškom Institutu za političke znanosti i član je Europskog parlamenta. “South Eastern Europe: A challenge in the Process of EU Enlargement”
Euroteka – 27.09.2002.

The post-Cold War era has not been particularly kind to the countries of South Eastern Europe (SEE). In the last ten years, ethnic conflicts, internal political fragmentation and economic slowdown have moved the region further away from the European integration process. However, most observers agree that the region should be considered as an integral part of Europe and that it must be included in the strategy of EU enlargement. Furthermore, taking into account the Copenhagen criteria, most observers also concur that the conditionality framework for the accession of the countries of South Eastern Europe to the EU leaves little doubt about how to manage this process. Still, there are many unresolved dilemmas about which way to go and how to proceed.

In the constantly changing political environment of South Eastern Europe there are no safe bets regarding the pace of the inclusion of the countries of the region into mainstream European integration. Who could dare forecast the political developments in Macedonia, for example? Who would wish to speculate about the constitutional future of Bosnia and Hercegovina? Is Montenegro really on the way to leaving the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? Would Kosovo, in the case of secession, be viable as an independent state? Who could efficiently steer Albania in its political and cultural traditionalism? Even in the case of Croatia, the most advanced country of SEE according to many analysts, might not its European potentials start to lag behind its European ambitions?

For the ‘devil’s advocates’ who seek additional arguments, there are other important dilemmas facing international diplomacy. What is the long-term strategy of the EU and the US in the area? What is the future of the Dayton Agreement or that of the Stability Pact? How many Europeans would actually be eager to see certain countries of South Eastern Europe in the EU (or in NATO)? How much more assistance can the West readily offer to the region? And ultimately, even if all these issues are tackled in the most desirable way, who could offer assurances that this positive thinking and these good intentions could handle the challenges of the Balkans real-politik?

The conference organized in Zagreb on 1-2 February 2002 by the European Movement Croatia and the European Movement International was not exceptionally ambitious in this regard. The starting point was to gather some of those who could assess realistically the chances and perspectives for individual countries from SEE to become effective members of the European family. It turned out, however, that the motivation of speakers to elaborate on the subject was unexpectedly high. From the very beginning of the conference, prominent speakers brought the level of discussion to the point where the organizers could clearly identify the added value of the event.

First, it was repeatedly emphasized that every single country in the region would enter the EU individually, but with a record of solid collective achievement as an additional atout. None of the aspirants should even speculate about its EU membership without fostering regional co-operation. Somebody put a rhetorical question to the conference audience: ”how can you think of making friends in the Union if you are not capable of making friends in your neighbourhood”.

These words, often quoted in the extensive media coverage, rang loudly in the ears of those in the region who might have had an illusion about any shortcut to the EU.

Second, the EU itself has provided a number of tools, instruments and institutional means for the countries of the region to facilitate their mutual rapprochement and individual legal adjustment to the acquis communautaire. The essential institutional means are the stabilization and association agreements. The governments in the area, which aim to bring their people and states into the EU, should have no doubt regarding the original goal of those in the EU who drafted these agreements. The regional emphasis of the agreements is not meant to bind the countries of SEE to each other, but to intensify their commercial, legal, infrastructural and, where necessary, political co-operation. Without such co-operation these states will not be able to strengthen security in the region, nor will they be able to use appropriately their own economic comparative advantages. Although there were some reservations at the conference about the real need for regional co-operation, ”regionalism” was clearly accepted by the overall majority of participants. Any other choice might lead to an impasse.

Third, the co-operation in the region is not possible without substantial effort from the international community to revise and redefine a certain number of institutional provisions framed in the last decade. The first among them is the Dayton Agreement which was described by a distinguished conference participant as a ”terrible agreement to stop a horrible war”. The Dayton Agreement, as defined and applied by the international representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is probably the main obstacle to the final political and security settlement of the region as a whole. It is said that boats docked in a storm will not be safe at low tide. Ropes, knots, fenders and anchors must be checked and adjusted to the new circumstances. The EU as an acting port authority must assume a leading role in this process. The region itself cannot do much alone.