Analysis: “Norwegian model”, a new opportunity for the Balkan countries?

Analysis: “Norwegian model”, a new opportunity for the Balkan countries?

By Muhamer Pajaziti

The European Union has long been using double standards with countries in the Balkans. What’s more, it uses a wrong expansion strategy, which obviously only aims at expanding its market share in the region.

Since 2000, the European Union has begun to sign Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAAs) with Balkan countries, but the process of the eventual membership has stalled with no sign in the horizon that it will be completed any time soon.

The EU has benefited from these agreements by exporting numerous tax-free products (excluding protected products over a period of 7 to 10 years), while the countries of the region have achieved very little in terms of production capacity, competition and other parameters, and their exports to EU Member States have been limited.

It would seem logical that after the SAAs, the dynamics and process of integration would accelerate, but the opposite is the case.

North Macedonia signed this contractual agreement in 2001, but so far it is clearly seen as being far from a membership. Even the new EU strategy does not envisage its membership in 2025.

A similar game has been played in Albania, treating it as a politically immature state. But for Kosovo the situation is even worse. In the absence of a unified foreign policy, the EU still maintains a neutral attitude towards Kosovo’s statehood.

The nonsense is that this visa-free organization has isolated and ghettoized the new state, preventing young people from academic visits, studies, receiving services or other experiences in the Member States.

Surprisingly, the EU has a different approach to aggressive Serbia. A paradoxical and strange approach, which violates the principles it proclaims.

With the latest EU strategy, Serbia is virtually the only country guaranteed a clear European perspective by 2025.

One has to wonder why this policy and strivings towards a Serbia that does not meet the main conditions for membership, namely the principle of good neighborly relations.

This Serbia is almost at “war” with Croatia, while with Kosovo it has hundreds of thousands of problems, starting with about 2000 missing persons and many other crimes for which it has not even apologized, let alone given indemnification.

If Europe does this for geostrategic purposes, linked to its enlargement process, it is mistaken, because it is contributing to the political devastation and Serbian expansion in northern Kosovo and elsewhere.

It is also contributing to the destabilization and growth of Russian influence in North Macedonia, while forcing Albanians to return to the idea of ​​Natural Albania, because otherwise they will not tolerate further fragmentation of their lands; this painful compromise will not happen.

The failure to open the European Union door for Albania and North Macedonia and French President’s project on the need to reform the Union continue to spark debates in western media.

Many European authors point that in this delicate geopolitical context, what is emerging in the Western debate is to replace the Balkans’ EU integration with a model known as the “Norwegian model”, or the European Economic Area (EEA).

They believe France risks severe destabilisation in the region and encourages political adventurism and insecurity in the EU’s neighbourhood – giving space for a growing external influence, mostly from Russia, Turkey and China .

The European Economic Area is a free trade area between the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

The pact encompasses the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and money between countries.

The Norwegian model will enable countries in the region to be part of the EU’s internal market, which is realized through the four fundamental freedoms, the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital. This will remove the physical, fiscal and technical barriers for countries in the region. This offer is better than having the region’s countries wait another 10 years to become full members of the EU.

In addition, Balkan countries would also be included in the EU’s regional policy, implemented through structural funds./ibna