Western Balkans and EU - Part 16

posted by julia on 2006/03/22 00:14

[ Western Balkans and EU ]

Last week, just a few days after the Salzburg meeting (cf. this blog, 12.3.2006), German chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that a "privileged partnership" for the Western Balkans could be an alternative to full membership for the region (1). Germany seems to join the club of EU countries whose leaders think that the EU should first find an agreement on its institutions, goals, and borders (2), and only then think about enlargement. Although Merkel did not rule out full membership for the Western Balkans, her remark comes at a critical time:

Croatia is just about to start its accession negotiations, but no date has

been set yet for the opening of the first chapter of negotiations.

Macedonia/FYROM is waiting for a date for the start of accession

negotiations, and Albania for the approval of its SAA by the 25 EU

member states (cf. this blog, 3.3.2006). If these countries are kept too long on

the "waiting list", public enthusiasm on EU accession could quickly drop (like it

was the case in Croatia last year).

The situation looks more difficult for Serbia and Montenegro: The

governement is torn between its support of EU-integration and its concessions to

nationalist forces (3) and weakend by the row over a state burial for Milosevic

(Milosevic' Socialist Party had threatened to withdraw their support of the

government if they could not have a state burial or at least display Milosevic'

corpse officially). While nationalist critcisms of the Hague tribunal are louder than

ever after the suicide of Babic and the death of Milosevic, the EU is insisting on the

deadline of April, 5th to deliver Mladic (4).

Moreover, the Serbian government has to cope with power games between

Serbia and Montenegro (5) and with the position of SaM President Svetozar

Marovic which said that he plans to campaign openly and actively for

independence (RFL/RE, 7.3.2006).

Not to mention the negotiations on the status of Kosovo. The second

round of talks which took place on Friday 17 March was - like the first round (cf.

this blog, 22.2.2006) - qualified as "extremely constructive" by A. Rohan, although the

nomination of Hashim Thaci as new leader of the Prishtina delegation was heavily

criticised by the Serbian side... and although no significant agreement was reached on the issues

discussed, that is on the Kosovo-Serb municipalities, their financing and their

relations with the Serbian government. (6) To preserve the "constructive"

atmosphere and to encourage reforms both in Belgrade and Prishtina, the EU - and

the EU member states! - should pronounce not only warnings, but


The same is true for Bosnia-Herzegovina where on 18 March party

leaders reached an agreement on a (minimal) constitutional reform: the rotating 3-person presidency will be abolished, but the nationality scheme will be kept as

distribution key for the posts of president, prime minister, and parliament

president. The president will also have two vice-presidents in order to guarantee

the representation of the three communities in the presidency. (7) This reform was

greeted by the EU and the High Representative as a major step towards EU

integration... If more steps are to follow, a clear membership perspective has

to replace what Olli Rehn called "wobbly" statements on "privileged partnerships"


(1) EU Observer,


(2) Der Standard, Streit um "geografische EU-Grenze", 17.3.2006

(3) Andrej Ivanji: Milosevic-Beerdigung zeigt:

Serbiens Regierung ist erpressbar
, TAZ-Kommentar, 20.3.2006; Henryk

Jarczyk, Vielleicht die letzte Chance für Serbien, Tagesschau-

Kommentar, 18.03.2006.

(4) Igor Jovanovic, Serbia: Pavane for a Dead Dictator,

Transitions Online, 17.3.2006, and Serbia: Burying the Dictator,

Transitions Online, 20.3.2006; EU: Poziv, uslov i podrška,

B92, 20.3.2006.

(5) ... which are even reflected in the preparation for the Eurovision contest: as

Serbia and Montenegro could not agree on a joint contribution, they decided not

to participate (NZZ, 20.3.2006).

(6) Kosovo Gespräche:

Neue Runde
, Der Kurier, 17.3.2006; for photos of the Kosovo talks, cf. kosovakosovo.com

(7) cf. Reuters, 20.3.2006; and the TAZ, 20.3.2006.

(8) Olli Rehn: Speech at the European Parliament, 15.3.2006: "If we were to go wobbly about the Western Balkans’ European perspective, our beneficial influence would be seriously eroded, just when the region enters a difficult period of talks on Kosovo’s status.
The EU perspective is the key to a sustainable settlement for Kosovo, and for democratic development in Serbia and the rest of the region. It is the foundation that holds the region on a peaceful and reformist track."



This weblog is a forum for discussion on the political and social processes linked to EU integration in the Western Balkans. We would also like to use this space to create a virtual network of researchers on this topic. You are most welcome to contribute to this weblog with comments, postings, links, or photos. Please use the "add comment" function at the end of each posting!
All photos by the Photo Arts Collective of Kosovo. First photo by Burim Myftiu (Swimming olympiade in Klina). Second photo by Mimoza. Third photo by Dashmir Izairi.
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