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Another Balkan union?

Bfrey T. Kuhner
Published July 2, 2003

The European Union is seeking to restore a greater Yugoslavia. Following the bloody disintegration of that country in the 1990s one would think the international community would get the message that the Croats, Slovenes, Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, Macedonians and Kosovo Albanians no longer wish to live in the same state.

Yet at a recent "Western Balkans" summit sponsored by the EU in Porto Carras, Greece, the Europeans are now forcing the peoples of the former Yugoslavia to embrace another Balkan union.

The EU, which is poised to admit 10 new countries from Central and Eastern Europe, held out the promise to Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina and the union of Serbia and Montenegro that those countries could also one day join its ranks. "The process of European unification will not be complete until the Balkans have joined the EU," proclaimed European Commission President Romano Prodi.
But Brussels is insisting that certain conditions need to be met prior to granting membership, such as completing economic reforms, strengthening human rights and tackling organized crime and corruption.

The key step, however, toward full membership is that each country in the region needs to negotiate a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. Also known as the Balkan Stability Pact, it is an attempt to reconstitute another Yugoslavia, minus Slovenia plus Albania. The Stability Pact seeks to create an economic union based on a Balkan free-trade zone, characterized by close "inter-border" cooperation and loose political links. So far only Croatia and Macedonia have successfully negotiated an agreement with the EU.

The idea of a Balkan union is deeply unpopular among ordinary citizens in the area for one simple reason: It is not politically viable. One of the great lessons of the 20th century is that artificial, multiethnic states incorporating peoples who do not want to live together are not sustainable in the long run. Multinational empires such as Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Austria-Hungary and Imperial Britain eventually collapsed because they abrogated the democratic aspirations of their subject peoples.

The break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s enabled countries such as Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia to finally achieve their long-sought dreams of independence, representing a significant victory for the forces of democracy and national self-determination. Brussels is hoping to reverse this historic achievement in order to fulfill its goal of creating a Continental socialist superstate. The proponents of a federal EU hope to dissolve national sovereignties and impose cultural homogeneity upon the diverse peoples of Europe. Under the guise of "progress" and "ethnic reconciliation," they are now planning to end the Balkans' short experiment in national independence and self-rule.

The formation of a greater Yugoslavia linked to the EU is not a progressive or liberal project, but a deeply racist policy destined to fail. Brussels is essentially telling the peoples of the region they are unable to govern themselves and can only enter the EU as a regional bloc, not on an individual basis as have the other countries of Europe. This amounts to being treated as second-class Europeans.

Moreover, a Balkan union is not feasible because it has no mass political support in the region. So far the political elites in Zagreb, Belgrade, Skopje, Sarajevo and Tirana have avoided telling their citizens that the cost of EU membership is agreeing to a larger regional integration that no one wants. Following the wars of Yugoslav succession, if there is one thing the Serbs, Macedonians, Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Albanians can agree upon it is that they do not want to co-exist in the same state.

What is most shocking has been the decision of the ruling leftist government in Croatia to go along with Brussels' agenda. Under Yugoslavia, it was the Croats who suffered under Belgrade's iron grip more than any other national group. After having fought a successful war for independence in 1991, Zagreb is now on the verge of frittering away Croatia's hard-won national sovereignty.

Composed mainly of former communists who still long for the restoration of Yugoslavia, the regime of Prime Minister Ivica Racan and President Stipe Mesic have surreptitiously gone ahead with their plans for making Croatia a permanent part of the "Western Balkans." As the most economically advanced of the five nations at the summit, Croatia is hoping to join the EU in 2007 along with Bulgaria and Romania. Yet most diplomats in Washington and Brussels believe this is not possible unless the country's living standards and per capita income are increased significantly. Zagreb will need to achieve an economic miracle to hit its target date for EU membership - which will not happen under the stagnant policies of the current socialist leadership.

Mr. Racan and his allies have waged an intense public relations campaign, making the government's bid to join the EU the centerpiece of their administration's accomplishments. National elections are expected to be held this fall or spring 2004 at the latest.

Zagreb's decision to accede to the creation of another Balkan union has given the surging center-right opposition the wedge issue it needs to topple Mr. Racan from power. The conservative opposition should make the election a referendum on whether Croats want to again cede their country's independence.

The opposition should insist that Croatia follow the Slovenia model, in which Zagreb enters the EU as a single, sovereign country that will aggressively defend its national interests and cultural identity at the negotiating table with Brussels. Croatia's conservatives need to form an alliance with the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, who along with Denmark, Britain and Silvio Berlusconi's Italy, aim to transform the EU into a decentralized, economic free-trade zone that will preserve Europe's distinct cultures and national sovereignties.

The Croats were instrumental in bringing down Yugoslavia. Hopefully, they will also bring down Brussels' plans to resurrect the corpse of Yugoslavia from the grave.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is assistant national editor at The Washington Times.


Zagreb, May 22 (FPB) - The European Commission (EC) yesterday adopted a new proposal for partnership relations between the European Union and the Western Balkans. The purpose of this proposal is to better assist the Balkan countries in their bids to draw closer to the European Union. The proposal is to be adopted by the European Union's Council and the European Parliament.

The EC states that the Stabilisation and Association process (SAp)- the current framework for relations with the region - will remain the cornerstone of policy towards the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro), but it will be given a new dimension through elements that have proved successful with other candidates for EU membership.

According to the Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten, "The map of the European Union will not be complete until the countries of the Western Balkans are included in it. There is a great deal of work to do: reforming the economies, standards of governance and democracy of the region remain major challenges - alongside the constant battle to tackle corruption and organised crime."

The EC proposes to intensify the SAp through concrete measures: through introducing European integration partnerships, enhanced support for institution building, improved political cooperation, assistance in economic development, rule of law, cooperation on justice and home affairs and enhanced regional cooperation and democracy.

As regards enhanced support for institution building, the EC says that the support should be increased for the Western Balkan countries. It stresses that some of these programmes, called "twinning programmes", have already begun in Albania and Croatia and should be developed further.

The Technical Assistance Information Exchange Office (TAIEX), which was set up as part of the pre-accession strategy to provide targeted technical assistance to candidate countries on bringing their system in line with EU legislation, will soon start operating in the Western Balkans.

As regards legislation, justice and internal affairs, the EC proposes to develop a dialogue with the countries in the region with the aim of identifying targets against which progress can be assessed, especially in the fight against corruption and organised crime.
The EC further proposes extended participation in relevant Community programmes, including education programmes, and enhanced regional cooperation and democracy.

"The countries of the Western Balkans will be encouraged to develop concrete forms of collaboration in such areas as parliamentary cooperation, refugee return, trade and investment, energy, transport and infrastructure," concludes the EC statement.
Meanwhile, Croatian President Stjepan MesiŠ, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and Serbian Premier Zoran «ivkoviŠ stated in an open letter that Europe would be united only after the countries of South-East Europe are integrated into it. President MesiŠ's office confirmed that the open letter was issued ahead of the World Economic Forum, to be held in Athens.

In the letter the three statesmen express confidence that next month's summit in Salonika would be "a golden opportunity" for the EU and the three countries to establish "a common basis which can lead to concrete progress". The long-term stability of the region depends on economic stability, the most important element being the readiness of Southeast European countries to "cooperate with the EU in spending granted funds in a more efficient manner".

All South-East European countries have started reforms on the political, economic and social front and demonstrated commitment to their strategic goal - full integration in Euro-Atlantic associations, reads the letter, adding that the duration of the process of admission would depend on the countries' individual progress.

LUXEMBOURG - Croatia and the European Union adopted a draft joint Declaration on political dialogue in Luxembourg on Monday, October 29, 2001.

The Declaration in its integral form is as follows:


On the occasion of the signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Croatia, of the other part, the European Community and its Member States and the Republic of Croatia (hereinafter referred to as "the Parties") express their resolution to reinforce and intensify their mutual relations in the political fields.

Accordingly, the Parties agree to establish a regular political dialogue which will accompany and consolidate their rapprochement, support the political and economic changes underway in the Republic of Croatia, and contribute to strengthening their existing links and establish new forms of cooperation, in particular taking into account Croatia's status as a potential candidate for European Union membership.

The political dialogue, based on shared values and aspirations, will aim at:

  1. REINFORCING democratic principles and institutions as well as respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to national minorities;
  2. PROMOTING regional cooperation, development of good neighbourly relations and fulfilment of obligations under international law;
  3. FACILITATING the integration of the Republic of Croatia to the fullest possible extent into the political and economic mainstream of Europe based on its individual merits and achievements;
  4. INCREASING convergence of positions between the Parties on international issues, and on those matters likely to have substantial effects on the Parties, including cooperation in the fight against terrorism and other areas in the field of justice and home affairs;
  5. ENABLING each Party to consider the position and interests of the other party in their respective decision making process;
  6. ENHANCING security and stability in the whole of Europe and, in particular, in South-Eastern Europe, through cooperation in the areas covered by the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union.

The political dialogue between the Parties will take place through regular consultations, informal contacts and exchange of information as appropriate, in particular in the following formats:

  1. High-level meetings between representatives of the Republic of Croatia on the one hand, and representatives of the European Union, in the Troika format, on the other;
  2. Providing mutual information on foreign policy decisions taking full advantage of diplomatic channels, including contacts at the bilateral level in third countries as well as within multilateral fora such as the United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe and other international organisations;
  3. Contacts at Parliamentary level;
  4. Any other means which would contribute to consolidating, and developing dialogue between the Parties;
  5. Where appropriate, political dialogue may be organised as a multilateral and/or regional dialogue.

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