The concept of “the Balkans” and “crisis” have become almost synonymous, and another aggravation in this region is no surprise. But what is happening in the Western Balkans in the last few weeks, really stands out from the usual range of problems and it seems the deepest crisis since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Not one or two, but all six have not yet acceded to the EU countries the situation is on the verge of completely out of control utyanuv for a rest of the neighbors.
The leaders of Albania and Kosovo have threatened to begin negotiations about the merger, if the EU does not offer them a clear prospect of accession. In Serbia the third week of protests against the victory in the presidential election of Aleksandar Vucic, who established in the country, in fact, the regime of personal power. The Bosnian Serbs held a referendum on a training date gosprazdnik and now threatened a referendum on secession from Bosnia, their leader Milorad Dodik has got under the American sanctions.
Sanctions threatened by the leadership of Macedonia, where four months after early elections, the old regime still refuses to allow the opposition to form a new government, because then there will of the Albanian party calling for a Albanian autonomy. In the Albanian elections, too, not everything is in order — before they left, little more than a month, and the opposition refuses to participate in them. Finally, in Montenegro, the opposition leaders in General are under trial against them has put forward formal charges in an attempt to organize a coup with the support of Russia.
All this does not sound like a prosperous and democratic European future that was promised to the region in 2003 at the Thessaloniki summit, when the EU stated that it would take the Union of all States of the Western Balkans. Since then, to really make the European Union had one Croatia, and for the rest there is not even an approximate date, though some of them received official candidate status for more than 10 years ago. And the only current that swept the whole region the crisis has forced the EU leaders to remember that over the past decade and a half they have not been able to resolve the Balkan conflicts that now you can again flare up.
To blame the failure of the Europeans were looking for long — Russia, Turkey, and China that their credit, investment, soft power and just a bad example to push Balkan leaders to ensure that they behave destructive, did not comply with European recommendations and conflict with each other, disturbing the peaceful integration of the region into the EU. They say, if not for the intervention of third countries, the Western Balkans has long been to pacify and became a full-fledged part of a United Europe.
This explanation raises many questions, for example about the real scope and aims of activity of third countries on the Balkans. But the main one is how Europeans imagine the existence of the country and especially of the whole region, whose external contacts in all areas would be closed solely on the European Union and more than anyone else? The dominance of the EU in the economic and in the political life of the Western Balkans is unprecedented, so the strong position of Europe is not in any other region of the world. And even if in these almost ideal conditions, the EU is not able to demonstrate the stabilizing role of its foreign policy, where all he can do?
Of course, the Western Balkan States do not live in a vacuum and not on mercury: they have political, economic and historical ties not only with the European Union. However, these ties are on the scale dozens of times inferior to our relations with the EU, but in order to not contradict the process of European integration.
Russian expansion in the Balkan energy stopped a few years ago, achieving very limited results. And policy activity of Russia in the region is reduced to a symbolic dissatisfaction with the proliferation of NATO, but not EU.
The Balkan policy of Turkey even more consists of some flamboyant gestures, calculated to the Turkish audience. The Ottoman nostalgia Ankara is a success, except that the Bosnian Muslims, and the other only scares, including even the Muslim population of Albania and Kosovo.
Finally, tens of millions of dollars invested in the Western Balkans China, say more about that, Chinese presence in the region is minimal. The world is difficult to find another group of countries where the economic role of China would be less than in the countries of the Western Balkans.
In trade and investment in the Western Balkans, all three countries lag behind the EU in ten or more times. And in the area of international integration, they do not even try to offer the Balkan States a kind of alternative to EU membership. For its part, leading the Balkan party and the absolute majority of the local population still aspire to join the European Union only and nowhere else, despite all delays and difficulties.
But such a great effect is still not enough for the EU simply to stabilize the situation in the region, not to mention a sustainable economy and successful European integration. The accession of the Western Balkans into the EU now looks even less realistic than in 2003.
The illusion of poverty and hatred
The main reason of this stupor of inaction in Europe, where politicians, the media, and behind them the voters blindly believed in a completely false picture of the Western Balkans as a huge black hole, whose poverty and fanatical ethnic hatred cannot be overcome by any resources, especially such limited as it is now the EU. Naturally, when a stereotype was in Europe, something taken for granted, any European politician will shy away from the topic of European integration of the Western Balkans, because with nothing but new and bigger problems, the Western Balkans have European voters are not associated.
However, the view is completely false in all its parts. First, the Western Balkans is, even by European standards very small region. Of course, six of the States that sounds impressive, but their total population is only 18.3 million people. It is half a million less than the one in Romania, two and a half times less than in Ukraine.
Same with Balkan poverty. Of course, by Scandinavian standards, the Western Balkans is very poor. But the world — not at all. If you calculate the average GDP per capita of the six countries of the region in 2015 (adjusted for inflation), it will be twice the Ukrainian and only 16% lower than it was in Bulgaria in 2006. The Bulgarian and the level then was considered quite sufficient to put the country joined the EU on 1 January 2007.
Talk about ethnic hatred and other Balkan savagery is also greatly exaggerated. The Western Balkans is not Turkey. These countries have lived for decades under socialism with the modernization of its powerful potential for societal mores. There has long achieved universal literacy, compulsory schooling, affordable minimum medicine, most of the population lives in cities, and the heads hammered a basic understanding of gender equality.
Armed ethnic conflicts in the Balkans had in the 1990s. It’s quite an old society with a median age of about 40 years, so most remembers the events of 15-20 years ago and do not want their recurrence. Sociological studies show that now power ways solution to the ethnic conflict in, say, Serbia is ready to support only a few percent of the marginalized.
Inter-ethnic hostility, of course, has not disappeared, but has long ceased to be the determining factor in political life. She constantly POPs up in the media, is exploited by local politicians, but in those speeches much more inertia and cynicism than real bigotry. It’s my grieving, naborolis; now the majority of inhabitants of the Balkans are ready for radical concessions to ethnic issues in exchange at least a small increase in welfare and economic well-being is associated primarily with European integration.
Finally, the Balkan States is quite a democratic country with real political competition. Over the past few years, the situation there has deteriorated seriously, but such things as the change of power in elections, free media and opposition parties, there still are not something unprecedented, which distinguishes the Western Balkans from other border regions of the European Union.
However, despite such favorable conditions, over the past 15 years, the EU failed to achieve in the Western Balkans sustainable, long-term stability. In fact, this task is not compromised, but instead the Balkan policy of Brussels pursued a very different purpose — that the Balkans was quiet, so there’s not a shot, did not give reason for too loud of bad news and not distract the EU from higher-priority issues. This desire not to reform, but simply to freeze the situation in the Western Balkans, the European Union coincided with corrupt local elites, and this symbiosis has proved to be extremely successful: the situation in the region is now virtually identical to what it was 15 years ago.
The leaders of Germany and Italy never seriously studied the problems of the Western Balkans, although these two countries have enormous influence in the region, especially economic. Instead, the Balkan matters has been entrusted to the commissioners. Such a convenient way to demonstrate that in the European foreign policy, there are still issues on which the EU is so United that they are ready to entrust them to the Brussels bureaucrats. However, in the case of the Balkans this is a rare European unity is based mainly on the unanimous unwillingness of the EU to get involved in the Balkan problems.
And Brussels bureaucrats long-term effects are much less important than the opportunity to report on progress in the short term. Balkan leaders have learned well that if they do not accept the suggestion of the EU, then you need a longer stretch, and then after a while they will make another offer, much less radical and dangerous to their own interests. Because Brussels bureaucrats nor push, nor can not wait long. They need to record at least some success in their reports.
Balkan leaders understand that the EU in its relations with the Balkans is most afraid of loud bad news from there. And if a leader is able to ensure the absence of such news, the Europeans are ready to forgive him for it very much. No corruption scandals, no authoritarian habits or xenophobic rhetoric, nor even suspicion of involvement in war crimes did not prevent the European Union to support Djukanovic in Montenegro, in Macedonia, Gruevski, Thaci and Vucic in Kosovo in Serbia. Of course, the reputation of these leaders is questionable, but as long as they deliver in their countries in silence, it is better for them too much not to push, and then their place may come someone quite terrible.
His detached attitude to the Balkan problems in the European Union like to explain a reluctance to meddle in the internal Affairs of sovereign States in the Western Balkans. But it’s pretty hypocritical explanation, because the Europeans have already thoroughly got into these internal Affairs. Bosnia, with its post of the high representative, the peace implementation Council agreements and foreign judges of the constitutional court is not just actual, but also institutional protectorate of the EU. The KFOR contingent responsible for security in Kosovo consists mainly of Europeans. The agreement regulating the relations between Albanians and Macedonian Slavs in Macedonia, managed to achieve only under the promise of the Europeans to take the country into the EU, given his way, back in 2001.
Brussels bureaucrats constantly rush to mediate in the internal political conflicts in the Balkans, but in their mediation they are not looking for a long-term solution, and the only way to freeze the situation. This approach was raised in the Balkan policies of complete irresponsibility. They know that to negotiate directly with each other absolutely not necessary. Instead, it is better to raise a loud enough noise to came to Brussels intermediaries and began to calm everyone down. And then, even if you fail to achieve any tangible results, the negotiations with the European mediation valuable for the Balkan politicians themselves: you can stand out in the role of influential international players and courageous public defenders, and then to absolve themselves of liability for the slightest failure initially venture because it is a Brussels they were forced to concede.
Departure without subsidies
This point podmorazhivanie and patching of the Western Balkans may not seem like the worst option: there is no war — is already well. But the longer the EU has a similar short-term way, the fewer the chances to achieve the region’s long-term solution. And the current crisis is another proof. In the external silence of the situation in the Western Balkans deteriorating, and some EU action is worsening even spurs.
Especially disastrous policy of EU member States is for the human potential of the Western Balkans. Young, educated and active part of the population who could work on the modernization of the economy and the political system, is the European variety of benefits, moves in and puts his hand in the prosperity of Germany, Austria, Italy.
The examples are very eloquent. For example, in just two years (2014-2015) of the Bosnian Canton 10 left 7% of the population. They were mostly young and active. Why are so many in just two years? Because the majority of the population of the Canton 10 — ethnic Croats. They have Croatian passports. In the summer of 2013 Croatia joined the EU, and in 2015, Germany has opened to all Croatian citizens, its labor market. After this solution of the German problem of autonomy for the Bosnian Croats, obviously, will be solved by itself. They are in the country less than half a million who didn’t die from old age — will move to Germany. In 15-20 years the demand to create in Bosnia Croatian autonomy will be nobody.
Emigration to Europe from Macedonia, a country with two million inhabitants, 2001-2015 years amounted to about 106 thousand people. Most of them (about 58 thousand) have left, having received Bulgarian passports. Bulgaria willingly gives them, because he believes that Macedonian is in fact Bulgarian. And the Macedonians are willing to take, because Bulgaria is EU country and for its citizens opened labour markets of Western Europe.
A generous programme of Germany for asylum seekers has led to the fact that 2015 got there to ask for political asylum more than three percent of the population of Kosovo. After a few months, most of them denied, but ago have been returned to Kosovo only a few thousand.
Of course, the free movement of labor, as well as of goods, services and capital, is one of the basic principles of the EU. And if the Western Balkan countries themselves want to join, you must be prepared for such costs. But as it turns out that actively go to Europe citizens of the Western Balkans already can, but to obtain subsidies from the EU budget to stimulate its economy and slow down the outflow, not yet.
For example, EU grants in support of European integration of Bosnia in the years 2014-2017 shall be 165,8 million euros. There is a lot of things: improving the quality of education, support for innovation, modernization of social sphere, improvement of legislation, administrative reform. And for all that the EU is not a pity to give the Bosnians about 40 million euros per year.
Bosnia — the country is small and poor, but still this aid will amount to only 0.6% of the costs of the Bosnian budget. At the same time Denmark, comparable to the population of Bosnia, receives annually from the EU budget over € 1.5 billion of subsidies. Obviously, with such spending in Denmark from Brussels, there is no way to carve out a little money to prevent a new armed conflict in Bosnia.
All of this can be argued that the European Union generally do not have the Western Balkans. It’s their problem — so let yourself with them and understand. Of course, the problems of the Western Balkans is much more to blame local politicians, not Europeans. But, first, if in the Balkans comes to serious destabilization, it is the problem of the Balkans inevitably become problems of the EU and to pay for their resolution will be a lot more expensive than prevention.
And secondly, the EU itself is not ready to provide the Western Balkans complete independence. Association agreements, creating free trade zones, status of candidates, accession negotiations — all this securely binds the region to the European Union and excludes the possibility to look for a better share in collaboration with someone else.
Moreover, the EU responds very quickly and painfully if the cooperation of the Balkan States with third countries is, according to Brussels, was too ambitious, even if it is only about the economy. Here we can recall the European abandonment of the construction in the Balkans, the Russian gas pipeline “South stream” Brussels or investigations against the Chinese project of high-speed railway Belgrade — Budapest. Why the Balkans project at $ 3 billion with the participation of the Chinese threat when the EU already gave them 40 million euros for the European integration?
The main problem of the Balkan policy of the EU is not so much the money as the reluctance to seek new approaches, although they can be much more effective than the traditional and almost free.
For example, the EU could support existing in the Balkans, the movement for the recognition of Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin are one language with different dialects. Linguistic anomaly when, for example, in Bosnia the same inscription duplicated three times in three official languages, it may seem funny, but it creates enormous political difficulties. Because a slight dialectical difference gives the Balkan government to divide the education system along ethnic lines. Children of different ethnic groups are taught separately and thus reproduce new generations old ethnic hatred. Although in practice it is impossible to imagine a situation, for example, the Croatian student suddenly realized that he explains the Serbian teacher.
Even the EU is unlikely to overcome nationalist sentiment in the Balkan authorities and get them to officially recognize these languages one. Especially when there’s a problem with its name. But to ensure that the difference between the dialects is not used for educational apartheid, is an attainable goal.
Another possible innovation (also free) — to revise the order of the States in the tacit integration of a queue that exists since the 1990-ies. Then, at the end of the Yugoslav wars, it was decided that Serbia is the country of the perpetrator, and, for example, Bosnia is a victim of so it would be immoral to reward Serbia that it will join the EU before Bosnia.
But the problem here is that in the neighboring countries, Serbia has a large Serb minority. Now they see the EU as anti-Serb organization and, therefore, oppose European integration. And if Serbia, which is already seriously suffered for its policy in the 1990s, was inside the EU, this issue would disappear by itself.
Finally, it is unclear why European leaders are so shocked shy away from the prospect to move from a vague reasoning to real actions and to accept the Western Balkans into the European Union. This decision will not be popular with European voters, but special problems for the EU will not create. Adopted 10 years ago, Romania or Bulgaria, and not to say that these countries created the European Union now more problems.
After all, the European Union, contrary to many illusions — this is not a guarantee of prosperity for all its members. It’s just a few of the common financial programs and policy coordination in some areas. Plus the ability to introduce external mechanisms of control over the backward countries, as was done quite successfully by Bulgaria and Romania. Why not repeat the same in the Western Balkans? This will not require huge money. The same Romania that are comparable to the Western Balkans in terms of population and level of development, the first five years had received a net subsidy of only 1.2-1.6 billion euros per year, i.e. about 1% of the current expenditure of the EU budget.
Moreover, the level of euroenthusiasm in the Balkans, though declined in recent years, remains one of the highest in Europe. The EU for these States uncontested last hope for a relatively prosperous future. So if the opportunity to join the EU becomes real to them, they will be ready for the most radical concessions in the settlement postyugoslavia conflict, until the recognition by Belgrade of Kosovo’s independence.
However, while even the current crisis may force the EU to include the Western Balkans one of its priorities. European leaders think that it is more important to deal with the new rules within the Union and only then can we return to the question of expansion. This position can result for the EU heavy losses, not only financial in the case of a new aggravation on the Balkans, but also reputational. Because if the European Union failed to achieve lasting stability even in extremely favorable conditions of the Western Balkans, how he can claim to be a stabilizing role in the much more complex regions such as the CIS, North Africa or the middle East?