Situation in the western Balkans
Delivered in Plenary - 23rd April 2009
The Ibrisagic report of course emphasises that stability in the Western Balkans is our major priority. In fact, in my opinion, EU membership is the glue which binds the region together in peace and stability. We still expect Croatia to be the next country to join the EU, if Slovenia settles its border dispute, unless of course tiny Iceland is fast-tracked in beforehand.
However, in reality things are slightly more tricky, with post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina still far from becoming a true nation and with Greece blocking Macedonia’s progress over the name issue. Added to this we have the credit crunch and German and French general objections to any further enlargement without the Lisbon Treaty being ratified, though in my view this is merely a pretext to stop all enlargement.
The decision by many EU countries and the US to recognise Kosovo as an independent country has also created new dividing lines in a region that has suffered so grievously from division in the past. We know already that Kosovo is unable to join the EU, as some Member States will not recognise it, and there is a similar story about joining the UN. In contrast, neighbouring Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia are progressing slowly towards eventual EU membership. Thus Kosovo could end up as an isolated enclave, deprived of EU membership but bankrolled by EU taxpayers for decades to come.
The attempt to solve an issue by international unilateral fiat has caused more problems than it has solved, especially in the region itself. A more balanced and measured approach could have ultimately enabled the people of Kosovo to enjoy the benefits of EU membership. Patience in all matters is a virtue, not least in foreign policy.