Serbia, Kosovo And EU Enlargement – Analysis

By TransConflict — (March 13, 2013)
Only Washington can push Pristina to accept a compromise over the north. Yet despite the fact that the Ahtisaari Plan clearly allows them to have a decision-making body, the US says it doesn’t accept “executive powers” for any association of Kosovo-Serb municipalities. Perhaps the US and Pristina should now talk directly with the northerners and stop holding EU membership hostage.

 

 

By Gerard M. Gallucci

 

 

The EU has problems, lots. The currency union turns out to have been a very effective mechanism for German growth and wealth at the expense of crippling debt for most of the other countries trapped within the euro. Low interest rates in Germany, high rates – and therefore ready cheap money – in the Mediterranean economies simply operationalized the imbalances intrinsic to a single currency serving quite different sovereign states. The Germans reaped the profits and complain of having to bail out the southern European slackers. The German Economic Minister now warns against allowing France to exceed debt limits and the ECB from lending any more money to those Italians.

All things being equal, the euro’s problems should not by themselves lessen the advantages of bringing those European countries outside the EU into membership. The EU per se is not the same as the single currency. Europe has effectively grown larger since the fall of the Eastern Bloc. NATO walked up to the borders of the former Soviet Union and is knocking at the door – for what advantage? – even on Georgia. The EU has added new states as well. It is the natural political and economic counterpart to the military alliance. Both stake their claim on the belief that Europe is more prosperous and more secure if internal barriers come down and it acts in common. The political and economic requirements of EU membership are seen to make democracy, transparency and free market capitalism more robust. By this reasoning, it would be clearly in Europe’s interest to bring in the Balkans (and Turkey) as soon as possible. Let the process of becoming EU members catalyze progress in these countries and cement them into the Western world.

Yet there is no denying a certain lack of eagerness for EU enlargement, perhaps with reason. Things don’t appear to have worked out so well with Romania and Bulgaria. But there may be deeper causes too. Electorates remain instinctively nationalistic and increasingly wonder about the costs of the union – including not only money but hosting “foreign” workers. Germany especially appears to be resisting EU enlargement for reasons quite apart from problems with the euro and they relate directly to its position on Serbia and Kosovo. Berlin’s policy toward the two has long appeared to be focused on keeping Albanians happy by giving them what they want outside Germany. An independent Kosovo cost Germany nothing and allowed the “return” of Roma and Albanians that no longer could cite war and persecution. It also conveniently made it less likely to have to deal with Serbian accession.

Germany has been singled minded in its effort to find reasons to keep Serbia from moving forward on membership. Despite occasional obfuscation, it clearly has conditioned getting even a date for membership talks on Belgrade surrendering the north to Pristina and recognizing Kosovo. Whatever the other European Quint members might be ready to accept, Berlin seems dug in. Chancellor Merkel just doesn’t want to add Serbia. The US appears pleased to play along with the Germans. (It’s been mostly the troops from both countries that sought to use force to bully the northern Kosovo Serbs in 2011.) The US can keep Kosovo a European problem by steadfastly supporting Pristina and letting Berlin take the lead.

Only Washington can push Pristina to accept a compromise over the north. But the US says it doesn’t accept “executive powers” for any association of Kosovo-Serb municipalities. This despite the fact the the Ahtisaari Plan clearly allows them to have a decision-making body. Thus the Serbian government remains caught between the demand to surrender Kosovo and its wish to move forward on EU membership. Prime Minister Dacic reportedly told the press that the EU and US seem to want his government to make a deal and then enforce it on the north. But as it can’t work that way, why should he negotiate over this. Let the US and Pristina talk directly with the northerners. Now there’s an idea. And stop holding EU membership hostage?

 

 

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010.