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Closing a century of European civil Wars by Getting the Balkans into the EU…

Closing a century of European civil Wars by Getting the Balkans into the EU…

… on July 28th 2014! by Franck Biancheri (2009)

(english) « If there is one possible enlargement, which directly fits with the original rationale of the European integration process started after World War II whose aim was to prevent European wars to come back, it definitely is the enlargement to the Balkans. »

Related to the article « Brussels makes way for Beijing in the Balkans » (Politico) in which Jacob Mardell writes: « Because the EU is absent in the region, Beijing is currently operating in something of a vacuum, and it offers a tempting paradigm: no-strings-attached finance that operates on the basis of mutual respect. Unlike Brussels, Beijing doesn’t demand political conditions or careful accounting. At home and internationally, Beijing prioritizes development over details like reform and human rights. In the Balkans, it is offering to build national projects the EU won’t touch: coal plants in Bosnia and Serbia, the highway in Montenegro. »


Sarajevo 2014 Manifesto, by Franck Biancheri, in EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES, Journal on European perspectives of the Western Balkan, volume 1, number 1, October 2009.


If there is one possible enlargement, which directly fits with the original rationale of the European integration process started after World War II whose aim was to prevent European wars to come back, it definitely is the enlargement to the Balkans. And on July 28th 2014, in Sarajevo, the EU and the Balkan co-untries may have a unique opportunity to conclude the currently unfinished business of closing a century of European civil wars. It was indeed in this very town where the deadly spiral of European 20th century wars was initiated on July 28th 1914. It may, it should in my opinion, bring it to its end in this very same town, exactly 100 years later, by celebrating the decision to accept all remaining Balkan countries within the EU, and by doing so achieving the original EU dream of bringing together all former European enemies within a single common peaceful political entity.History does not serve meals twice. Therefore with my friends of Newropeans and my colleagues of LEAP/E2020, in the next five years, I will systematically push forward this objective of Sarajevo 2014: Closing a century of European civil wars by getting the Balkans into the EU on July 28th 2014. Two key objectives will be targeted:

  1. A trans-European referendum on the question of Balkan countries acces sion at the occasion of the next elections to the European Parliament in June 2014
  2. A major historic celebration of this enlargement, in Sarajevo on July 28th2014, celebrating in the meantime the end of a century of European civil wars, one of the core rationale of the whole European Union project.

Of course, the road till Sarajevo 2014 is full of obstacles. But I believe that all of them can be overcome provide people on both sides, in the EU and in the Balkan countries, decide to fight for getting this political agenda implemented. And I know that there are many such people, which we will try to identify and bring together in the coming months. These people will recognize themselves by assessing t he fol low ing points about t he current situation in t he EU/Ba l kans relationship.

  1. A complete lack of EU political ambition regarding the Balkans, which directly threatens the young generations’ ability to drive this region out of its violent past. Indeed without a crystal-clear message that they share the same common future as the rest of European youth, they are unable to su-ccessfully resist nationalistic leaders and parties. The only thing the EU is doing so far is to show that it can replace militarily NATO to preserve the very instable peace of the region. Sending troops, consultants and funds is not a long term policy; though it seems that the EU intends to keep on doing that for ever at least when one looks at its lack of long term political projects for the Balkans.
  2. The current lack of public support to the EU directly relates to the ina-bility of its leaders to cope with historic challenges facing the EU: it is by proposing audacious solutions to get out of historic dead-ends that the EU elevates itself to its original nature, being a tool allowing the Europeans to solve together what they could never solve alone. By addressing head-on the Balkan enlargement issue, it connects the origins of the European pro-cess (bringing together former European enemies) with a current problem (peacefully integrating the Balkan diversity).
  3. It is very possible to “sell” the enlargement to the Balkans to EU public opinions. Indeed contrary to what the majority of politicians and EU in-stitutions think, it is possible to “sell” Balkans accession to the EU to the majority of European citizens because the region embodies the only argu-ments which can still convince voters to support a new enlargement:
    • the opinion on such a question is not established at all within European public opinions (so everything is possible). Contrary to Turkey or Ukraine, there is no consistent and organized opposition to Balkan countries accession;
    • the reasons for their membership are simple to understand;
    • and they are extremely effective arguments.

Essentially they are two main arguments:

a. The Balkans already is a major problem for the EU and will stay so in the future. Therefore the only question for the European Union is to know whether it wants to deal with the Balkans issue externally or internally. The accession of Balkan countries does not modify the internal and external strategic balances of the EU. These countries are already within the EU boundaries and their total population is small (about 25 million people). It is not like Ukraine and Turkey whose accession would deeply modify the EU and its relationship with its geopolitical environment.

b. Therefore, the EU is only left with two choices. Either it continues doing what it does right now: choosing no clear option, talking of possible mem-bership but on an individual basis with each state of the region, with nei-ther clear deadlines nor process; while keeping on acting upon the status quo inherited from Dayton. By doing so, it prevents all the forces wishing to establish sustainable democracies and peaceful relations in the region to gain power because it depends on current nationalistic forces (often anti-democratic as well) to preserve the fragile peace. In short, to preserve peace in the short term, it has to support the very forces, which are against the objective of peace and democracy in the region on the long term. Tactics in place of strategy: a very good image of today’s EU political course.

Either the EU chooses to set up a crystal clear political vision, saying essentially three things:

  1. The EU deals with the region as a whole. Even though every country will have its own objectives to meet, each country will also depend on its ne-ighbours results. European solidarity has to be learned from the very be-ginning of the accession process, especially in this region. And we all know that enlargements are in the end a political question, mostly dealt with ‘big bangs’ as was in the case of the most recent ones.
  2. The EU sets up a clear cut agenda with a symbolic deadline, July 28th 2014, and a symbolic place where the accession ceremony for all the involved country will take place: Sarajevo.
  3. The EU makes the pledge to do everything it can to convince its citizens to accept the Balkans in the EU at that date and links it to a trans-European referendum on Balkan countries accession at the occasion of the 2014 European elections.

So, for me and many in the organizations I work with, the agenda is clear. Let’s get to work to be able to celebrate together on July 28th 2014 in Sarajevo the accession of the Balkans countries to the EU, putting a final stop to a century of European civil wars!

Franck Biancheri (President of Newropeans and Director of Research of LEAP/E2020)

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