The Balkans of slow integrations
writes: Bardul Zaimi
Marija Todorova’s metaphor “Down there, in the Balkans” is already dissolving in its own meaning, offering – besides the typical Balkan delays – a thorough vision for the European countries to create a constant affirmation and come closer with the old continent. The Polish city of Poznań was leading the EU active approach towards the Western Balkans regardless of the differences among countries in the enlargement process. The Western Balkans Summit in Poznań offered another powerful impulse for the region’s ambition to integrate, however it did not offer any guarantee for a quick integration, as some of the countries that started discussing the accession process and those waiting for the EU negotiations start date might have expected.
The cooperation between the countries in the region, but also the cooperation with the European countries, especially in the field of the so-called network infrastructure, remains one of the top priorities decided at the convention. It is now certain that EU will invest a lot of money to enable the networking in many areas in the Western Balkans in order to establish the necessary standardization for a less painful integration of the countries in the region.
Rushing and waiting under a shadow are two constant states in the Balkans and they come as a reaction to the historical delays originating from the historical metaphor “Down there in the Balkans”. The region of “historical excesses”, of continuous political prejudices and turbulences, has long been living under the tough shadow of an unrealistic optimism and disappointment coming from the selfish and shameless politics.
It seems the time has come to realize that the EU membership does not go hand in hand with the politicians careers, their rushing and the inside political games. Finally, we must understand that the membership remains a coordinated and dimensional process in accordance with the EU policies which see a region of peace, cooperation and coherent development policies. The Poznań Summit confirms this active approach towards accession, which again, means accepting the European values and other preparatory paradigm that the Western Balkan countries will have to get used to.
Apart from the concept reserves that the European countries might be having, one thing remains certain – it is the fact that the region will not stay captured in the “big desolation” of non-European influences; on the contrary, the Berlin process was initiated as a right and coherent approach of the chancellor Angela Merkel and since 2014 it has been the gate through which the Western Balkan countries will enter the European family. Even the prestigious European media analysts explain that “no one in Brussels considers EU enlargement in the near future, but the Balkan countries are in need of concrete offers instead of empty promises”.
According to these media, this gap will have to be fulfilled with the Berlin process, a common initiative of several EU countries, the six countries from the Western Balkans and the European Commission. With funds and summits taking place on annual level, like the one in Poznań. Eight new infrastructure projects have been approved at this summit with 700 million euros from the EU available for the projects, and another 180 million euros as grants.
Therefore, the Balkans must finally realize that the integration process is not a swollen river but a calm one flowing gently towards the European “big blue”. The situation with the media in the Western Balkans was also discussed in Poznań among other issues. At the civil society forum “Hybrid threat to democracy: disinformation and propaganda” the panelists discussed how the media in the region function and the challenges they face. False news, political control of the news and ideological discourses and narratives were some of the topics discussed.
At the forum, they insisted on strengthening the media as one of the main conditions for initiating good policies and true democratization of the region. The structure of the independent media is considered to be essential for a sustainable development and strong regional cooperation.
All the issues discussed in Poznań have led to a more realistic vision for the Western Balkans, which is far from the expectations and the urgent conditions that do not see the membership as a process with numerous challenges and efforts. The Western Balkans needs support and readiness to incorporate the European values and standards. The Berlin process offers that exact coherent paradigm. The region is not left on its own and it is not “down there” … on the contrary, it is in the waiting room of Europe, one step closer to the European family. The next summit is expected to take place in Macedonia and Bulgaria.
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