Forgiveness and a promise - advocating a more regional approach to the Balkans by the EU
Ten years after Dayton, six years after NATO intervened to put an end to the violence in Kosovo, the wars of Yugoslav succession finally seem to be over, but the Yugoslav succession itself is still in a sense open. In May there will be a referendum in Montenegro on whether or not the country maintains its union with Serbia. The final status of Kosovo has not yet been determined, even though it looks highly likely that it will involve severing the link with Serbia. The people from the three main faiths in Bosnia-Herzegovina are not yet ready to be reconciled. The proceedings at the tribunal in The Hague against alleged war criminals are far from over.
The time has come for the European Union, the main political, economic and commercial partner of the western Balkan countries, to assess where things stand. Austria, which is the current holder of the Council presidency, has always shown a strong interest in Balkan relations. In addition, the process of disintegration which has been going on for the last fifteen years is coming to an end. It is hard to imagine other secessions after the determination of the future statuses of Montenegro and Kosovo although the possibility of Bosnia-Herzegovina, or even of Macedonia, being partitioned cannot be completely ruled out. The phase of disintegration has probably run its course and should now be replaced by one of reintegration. The question is how to give this move the appropriate form.
Europe has an asset like no other - the prospect of membership, opened up by the European Council of Thessaloniki in 2003. This is a unifying prospect that can have a considerable influence on the major domestic and foreign affairs policy decisions made by its Balkan partners. A look at recent developments suggests that the European Union has not always used this carrot as it could have done and that it has already missed several opportunities to act that may never present themselves again. One may well wonder whether the Stability Pact for Central and Eastern Europe, signed on 21 March 1995 on the initiative of French Prime Minister Balladur to ensure the inviolability of borders and respect for national minorities, could not be put back on the agenda. Any membership candidate should to settle its border and national minority disputes before being allowed to join the European Union. In any case, the circumstances in which Cyprus was finally allowed in, without having settled the problem of the division of the island, and without the Greek Cypriot population being in favour of the United Nations reunification plan, must not happen again. These events should not be regarded as precedents.
Balkans occidentaux: l'Union européenne doit favoriser une intégration régionale, an article by Marie-Anne Zorba, in Regard sur l'est