BALKAN LATENESS AND FAR EUROPE
By Bardhyl ZAIMI
The enthusiasm of the Western Balkan countries seemed to have disappeared at the Berlin Summit. Despite the optimistic atmosphere that was “injected” over time, it appears that the two leaders of this summit, Macron and Merkel, were cautious in the coordinates set for each country. Typically, when expectations are high, disappointments are of equal proportions. That could not have been different with the Berlin Summit, which received an unusual echo for the big decisions that will be made in the form of a machine for the specific problems of every Balkan country.
Since its establishment, the European Union has been implementing its policy through summits as a form of crystallization and dimensioning of its policies, which are then established as agreements in the creation of an institutional basis for what we now know as a European value. In contemporary politics, summits get the meaning of the possibility of a dialogue, exchange of opinions, thinking about a particular situation, but also for any agreement that may appear on the horizon. Summits do not usually make decisive decisions, but lead to access, politics, vision.
Theoretically, the primary elements of the summit are the executive participation of people with power and the participation of diplomacy at the highest level. The very fact that this summit was organized by two leaders somehow representing the most advanced countries in the EU shows the weight and expectations that appear in each participating country. Each country participated with its expectations and specifics. Over time, there were many considerations by analysts from the prestigious European and world media, who carefully reviewed the horizon of expectations from this Summit.
This summit passed between a typical Balkan enthusiasm and disappointment, while the two European leaders gave the message of establishing a broad regional context. In the meantime, a French strategy for the Western Balkans was published, through which it aims to encourage countries in the region to get involved in engagement on the path of reforms. There were also comments from the prestigious media that saw this summit as “cold water on Balkan hopes for immediate EU accession”.
It seems that in the background of the summit there is a non-emphasized attitude to the end, but which remains to be understood as a paradigm of the European approach to the region, and is related to the notion of non-change of borders. In that sense, the need for stability and readiness for a systematic approach to all conflicts across the dialogue path was emphasized.
The enthusiasm of this summit was also linked to the news of opening negotiations with the EU. The two prime ministers of both candidate countries, Macedonia and Albania, met with President Macron and Chancellor Merkel for launching the negotiations, but nothing was announced. Upon returning from this summit, the two prime ministers expressed optimism that they would start negotiations with the EU. It is not known whether they have received guarantees from the two European leaders or transmit the signals and messages from these meetings.
Macedonia and Albania expect to start negotiations with the EU in June. A recommendation to open negotiations was also given by the EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn. He noted that the European Commission in late May will recommend the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. “The historic agreement to end the name dispute with Greece and the agreement on good neighborly relations with Bulgaria are an encouraging signal for the entire region that solutions to long-standing disputes are possible. North Macedonia has also made good progress when it comes to internal reforms. The country deserves a green light to start accession negotiations as soon as possible before the summer holidays”, Hahn said. As for Albania, Commissioner Hahn expressed confidence that the country also deserves the start of negotiations over domestic reforms, with the exception of judicial reforms, but it has to deal with corruption and organized crime problems.
In this regard, the two leaders, Macron and Merkel, stressed that the Prespa Agreement remains an example for the region on how the dispute can be resolved. Over time, there were also warnings that the opening of negotiations could be postponed until September. However, the European leaders themselves stressed that this Summit was not focused on enlargement, but on the stability policies in the region.
One thing remains certain, that this summit was not organized for concrete responses to the expectations of each country. In addition, it seems that this summit has established a wide range of European commitments expected to occur in the future. A comprehensive approach that provides increased concern of France and Germany for the Western Balkans on the road to the implementation of European values. The horizon of the two European leaders is likely to be much wider than the new emergencies in the countries in the region. This vision implies a demand for long-term stability, incorporating policies that are in line with the European model. It also implies a sober and serious approach that is in line with European policies.
Hence, it is clear that this vision and engagement implies a long way for the Balkan countries to become part of the great European family. Far from enthusiasm, disappointment and home-use interpretations, this Summit set the main goal of crystallizing the European path of Balkan countries through challenges that are constantly emerging as fatal barriers. If we pay little attention to the published conclusions, we can see that “the attitude for democracy, the rule of law, the fight against corruption and strengthening of civil society and independent media” remain a challenge.
For the Balkans that is late, urgencies and intolerance can be unsustainable. Of course, these conclusions come as “homework” and imply a far longer path than just opening negotiations; they can create a kind of disappointment, and Europe to seem so distant. It obviously takes patience and correct engagement to incorporate the whole system of values of the European Union. However, Europe is not just rhetoric!
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