OP/ED: The EU’s tragic mistakes in the Western Balkans

OP/ED: The EU’s tragic mistakes in the Western Balkans

The dissolution of Yugoslavia with the active participation of several EU countries opened up Pandora’s box as far as current developments in the region of the Western Balkans are concerned; a region which underwent civil and ethnic cleansing in the heart of Europe for the first time since World War II.

The EU’s responsibilities are great as far as the history which was written after 1991 in Europe is concerned. However, despite the bad experience that should have been a lesson in European policy for the course which Western Balkan countries would follow, the EU continued to make the same mistakes, pushing countries that are in the process of joining the Union into new conflicts.

The EU’s first mistake was the loss of impartiality with regard to its relations with the accession states. By moving the goal posts according to the country the EU is losing its credibility and creates contradictory expectations for the accession countries.

On the one hand there is Serbia, which accepted the West’s hatred during the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and on the other, countries such as Croatia or Albania and FYROM have a more privileged relationship than the country that is a barometer for developments in the Balkans, but that also has a strong state, an important factor in the accession talks.

Serbia, which accepted most of the responsibility for the conflicts following the breakup of Yugoslavia, became the black sheep and was targeted as no other country in the region. No one can forget the severity of the Belgrade bombings when Croatia and Bosnia did more or less nothing in the 1990s.

Considering that there were powerful Serb populations in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, the only way, without the horrors of the Serbs, was to defend the integrity of their ethnic nationals. This, of course, does not relieve Serbia of its responsibilities.

But this practice reinforced ethnic controversy, since there was implicit support for any form of independence of these countries from the countries of the West.

The breakup of Yugoslavia, the upsurge of Albanian nationalism, the need for new countries’ policies for funding, and the loosening of structures to combat corruption and organised crime have made the rise of corruption and organised crime possible.

The downfall of the Western Balkan states following the breakup of Yugoslavia and the fall of totalitarian regimes in the region turned a prominent number to drug trafficking, smuggling and every illegal act that brought black money.

Albania, Kosovo, FYROM, Montenegro, Bosnia became the crossroads for trafficking drugs, smuggling goods, weapons, and exporting extremist-terrorists.

The EU, following the promises it made without the criteria of its Treaties being fulfilled, gave hope to governments for membership, while Union officials such as Romana Vlahutin, Commissioner Johannes Hahn and others acted as bad consultants in countries like Albania , FYROM, and Kosovo thus strengthening the arbitrariness of their governments.

Large amounts of money from the EU became political money, while black money from the drug trade funded almost all political parties. The rise of nationalism came to be added to the agenda of the policies of several countries from the Western Balkans, causing tensions and instability in the region.

The EU has to protect the democratic institutions in these countries. It has to pass on the culture of communication and co-operation, to act advisory and not punitively, as Russia is actively looking to the Balkans.

The EU must stop interfering with the internal affairs of these countries and separate the accession negotiations of the countries of the Western Balkans from Turkey, which is a different case. The Balkan peninsula, beyond the accession countries, has four countries belonging to the EU and the stability and security of the region should be ensured./IBNA