This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al
By Plator Nesturi
Albania and Macedonia managed to obtain a positive recommendation from the European Commission, which enables both countries to open the negotiations for accession in the EU. This is positive news for the entire region, where Serbia and Montenegro seem to be frontrunners. The surprising thing is that despite previous rejections and postponements of the dates, today, Albania managed not only to obtain a recommendation, but an unconditional one. Perhaps, the EU is clear about the fact that we will not manage to deliver any of the conditions on time, therefore, it’s better to have a clear political will which could encourage us to push the reforms forward.
What attracted everyone’s attention a few hours before the progress report for Southwestern Balkans was the clash of ideas between the EU president, Juncker and the French president, Macron. In fact, this is the clash of two ideas within the EU. A clash between the idea that champions the enlargement of the EU and the idea to postpone this process in order to have a reformation of the EU first. Macron was very clear with what he said. The Balkans need to wait, despite the fact that it may influenced by Russian and Turkish interests. But, Juncker’s argument was surprising. Being a delicate region, the Balkans could be threatened by internal conflicts, therefore speeding up the process of integration of these countries in the EU, is the only way to prevent a potential war.
This is the first time that a senior EU official makes such a non-political declaration. What’s more, this declaration was made by the head of the EU. So far, this sort of threat has been a peripheral threat, which only appeared in some newspaper and has never been articulated by an official. What remains to be seen is to see if there’s a real threat which could become clear if we are not integrated in the EU, or whether it’s just a prognosis to encourage EU member countries to accept the enlargement of the Union with the Western Balkan countries. So, what’s the basis for this fear? So far, the foreign policy followed by each of the region’s countries has played a very important role in every report. And they have not been assessed based on the stance that these countries have toward the EU and democratization processes, but based on their stance toward the neighboring countries and how much they contribute to peace.
Tensions in the Balkans may considered as a normal thing. War means something more and Balkans has seen its consequences during last century.
Up until now, besides the fiery rhetoric and a situation which is on the brink of conflict, the Balkans has not seen any changes of borders. The only case is in which they have changed was when former Yugoslavia was dissolved through the military conflict that accompanied it. But even in this case, the borders of the new states were decided based on the borders of the federal republics that comprised it. What happened in these 100 years was not a change of borders, but an exchange of populations. Based on the exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece, this tradition further continued with the Muslim populations in former Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, during the civil war in former Yugoslavia, this situation precipitated even further with the horrors and gruesome things that accompanied the ethnic cleansing. Thousands and thousands of people were killed and slaughtered just because they belonged to another ethnic group and some hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes, leaving behind destruction and hate. This situation emerged in a horrific form at the end of last century in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo.
However, all other states, old and new in the Balkans have all kinds of minorities and in this mosaic of ethnic groups, so many conflicts may emerge that could jeopardize relations between the different states and disrupt balance in the region. Therefore, the EU and the West have always paid close attention to every issued declaration or statement which could threaten to set fire to the Balkans. Meanwhile, as part of the conditions that were imposed on Balkan countries regarding their path of integration, the European Union has insisted that countries lower their nationalist tones and to be engaged in preserving stability in the region. What’s more, one of the obligations where the Balkan states have proven to be lagging behind in terms of the consolidation of the state and the democratic functioning of their institutions, which is an instrument that the EU uses to ease tensions within countries or between the countries, is the obligation to protect human rights and the rights of the minorities.
Seen in this point of view, with all these ethnic groups within the territories of each state, regardless of whether they get along or not with each other, the Balkan countries are like the Siamese brothers, where every infection is passed on to the other. The fact that the EU sees as one, despite the fact that we argue with each other, shows that we have a common destiny in spite of the tensions that may be created. Juncker rang the alarm bell that danger in the Balkans is still present. To escape this danger, an integration in the EU would not be enough. We would need to create functional and democratic states, to be open minded and accept diversity.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy