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The Future of Enlargement: Preparing for a Thessaloniki II?

Critical thoughts Position Paper prepared for Friedrich Ebert Stiftung by Paul Stubbs1 March 2013 Introduction In October 2009, ahead of the Swedish Presidency of the European Council, Christophe Solioz and I were asked by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung to prepare a short position paper advocating for a Thessaloniki II type summit and process to provide much needed momentum to the EU accession process for the countries of the Western Balkans. I attach that paper as an Appendix here, if only to remind us how rarely these initiatives succeed, as well as to caution against the lack of 'institutional memory' amongst international actors working on these issues. Subsequently, we co-edited a book 'Towards Open Regionalism in South East Europe'2 which attempts, quite explicitly, to explore South East European regional co-operation outside of the dominant frames in which it is usually discussed: i.e. in terms of international relations between sovereign nation states and as a conditionality in the process of accession to the European Union. The approach we took in the text, no doubt, reflected our own disillusionment with the kind of approach which seems, at least at first glance, to be behind this FES initiative, as yet another attempt to breathe life into a rather dead process. Frankly, I am increasingly concerned, even annoyed, by the sort of symbiotic, some might say incestuous, set of relationships between international organisations promoting the accession of the Western Balkans countries and a new breed of South East European 'think tanks' and 'policy experts' which all too often reinforce each others' view of the world and reproduce a rather static, out-dated, and unproductive 'commonsense' even whilst suggesting to each other, and anyone else who will listen, and those numbers are dwindling, that there is a need for 'innovative' and 'creative' thinking. I agreed to participate in this initiative only because I do think that conditions, both within the EU, and in the Western Balkans, are now different, both as a result of the deep economic, political and social crisis in Europe and in the context of Croatia's accession on 1 July 2013 and, therefore, that it might be worth one more attempt to approach these issues from 'outside the box' as it were. Hence, my comments below, although loosely following the 3 framing questions provided in the concept note, take the liberty of trying to widen the debate and address aspects which are rarely discussed within the framework of the sterile commonsense noted above. Enlargement as a Challenge for the EU and its Member States The current crisis of the European Union has gone far beyond 'enlargement fatigue' which, in its new form (look what happens when we allow in countries which are not ready for membership), is merely a symptom of wider events. The current leaders of Germany, the Netherlands and some other countries, with their allies in parts of the Commission (notably DG ECFIN), the IMF, and the European Central Bank, are trying to change, rapidly and without any real political debate or dialogue, much less a recognition of the need for consensus, both the nature of the relationships between Member States the European Council the European Commission and the European Parliament, and introduce deep and 'locked in' conditionalities regarding fiscal restraint and austerity. Of course, the issues which Angela Merkel and her allies are addressing are real. My point is that the way they are addressing them, and their choice of priorities - why not focus as much or more on inequalities between member states, on the erosion of the European Social Model, and so on - have massive implications for the political and social stability of a number of member states and of the EU as a whole. This culminates, of course, in the German
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Dr Paul Stubbs, Senior Research Fellow, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia. pstubbs@eizg.hr Stubbs, P. and Solioz, C. (eds.) (2012) Towards Open Regionalism in South East Europe. Baden-Baden: Nomos.

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Foreign Ministry commissioning its own Progress Reports on Croatia, setting aside long-term German-Croatian friendship, because it did not trust DG Enlargement whose 'vested interest' in enlargement, it was argued, tended to skew reports positively. Having, previously, been quite interested in the idea of a 'multi-speed Europe', I now think that it is merely shorthand for the renewed economic hegemony of a particular so-called 'European core' and the disciplining, politically and socially, of the so-called 'periphery'. The need for a new balance between the economic, political, environmental and social dimensions of the EU; the need to move 'beyond GDP', and the importance of putting issues of transnational redistribution back on the agenda, all signalled by the now marginalised Europe 2020 strategy, is needed more than ever, in my view. Another frequently articulated German Foreign Ministry statement is never again Bulgaria and Romania, and never again Cyprus, the latter being expressed in terms of the unresolved issue of sovereignty, long before the recent 'pilot project' attempt - presumably aimed to destroy Cypriot capitalism forever - of a tax on savers. What this framing does, however, is to promote ever more complex and stricter conditionalities prior to membership, combining the acquis with opening and closing benchmarks. As the Croatia case shows, even this heightened technical conditionality does not preclude political blockages either by wider forces (the ICTY for example) or over narrower, bilateral, issues (Slovenia blocking, most notably). Is Croatia more ready for EU membership in 2013 than she was earlier? On the positive side, there are a lot of people in jail who might not have been had the process been speeded up, although it could be argued that earlier EU membership might have made it harder, not easier, for them to engage in corrupt activities for quite so long. We certainly have lots of nice action plans, most sleeping peacefully in drawers, but one or two perhaps having more life in them than normal. And we have destroyed, sorry restructured, the shipbuilding industry and made sure that neighbours in Bosnia-Herzegovina know that there is a border between us. According to the Commission, Croatia has completed the reforms required by the acquis; according to many of my colleagues in the Institute of Economics, she has not even begun reforms necessary to become a truly functioning market economy (they conveniently forget the Europe 2020 idea of a 'social market economy'). After all, the new hegemony and EU-IMF meta-critical partnerships are inducing a certain kind of imposed reform, with disastrous consequences, in Greece, Italy, Romania, Spain, and Portugal. I think we need to revisit the question 'what is really needed to be a functioning member of the EU', and strip away much of the technical complexity which has gradually been introduced. For me, a 'multi-speed' European Union is less welcome than a kind of reinvigorated 'multilevel' or, better phrased, 'multi-scalar' Europe. A clearer recognition that a European project will always consist of a kind of variable geometry of more or less dense nodes and networks is needed, decentring the sovereign nation state and, above all, moving away from a rigid binary between who is in and who is out. This might be productive of new sets of solidaristic inter-relationships between a much wider range of actors and initiatives. This is already there in embryonic form, with myriad regional, cross-border, twinning and civil society partnership schemes. These need to have new life breathed into them, to be less technical and, perhaps, even less rule-bound, and, certainly, need to be framed in terms which go way beyond 'is this in the immediate economic interests of the EU core'. This could be one way of ensuring a radical change in the nature, scale and reach of the European project.

Accession as a Challenge for the Countries of the Western Balkans Are the Western Balkan states so very different from the, themselves variegated, new Member States from Central and Eastern Europe? If we leave Albania out the others, as former Yugoslavia, in 1990, were, of course, much more ready to join the EU than their CEE neighbours. The wars and their legacies have, of course, changed things but, even in terms of Page | 2

the much overused idea of 'democratic deficits', one would be hard pressed to argue that Croatia, for example, is in a worse situation than contemporary Hungary. In some ways, an understandable focus on re-creating central states in sovereign post-Yugoslav Republics, serves to limit the possibilities for lower level democratic change. If we look only at economics, bearing in mind that I would question the use of GDP as an indicator of anything, a recent paper has shown that recently, for South East Europe, the message is that the further away from EU membership the better, in terms of growth at least.3 The attraction of the EU is in danger of being lost, if new benefits are not quickly added. It is certainly the case that all the external efforts at 'state-building' and, more recently, 'region-building', in South East Europe have resulted in very little change 'on the ground'. They have succeeded in producing a kind of instrumentalisation of politics in which, for example, the political leadership in Montenegro offers to organise a gay pride parade, to show how Montenegro is 'not like Serbia'. It is also far too easily forgotten that an alternative to nationalist politics which did exist in much of the former Yugoslavia has now been channelled into an NGO elite that prefers to complain directly to Brussels rather than build an internal constituency for change. Of course, a greater voice, at all levels, for such groupings, and the encouragement of EU wide networking by a wide range of groups, is needed, but not at the expense of old fashioned local politics. In my view, the Western Balkans could contribute to a transformation of the growth paradigm, a new model which I hesitate to call 'de-growth'4, but will anyway. Let us not forget that the scenario for most of South East Europe since 2000 was jobless, unsustainable, import-seeking, consumption maximizing growth followed by deep structural crisis which, with all due lead and lag, appears to have severe and structural impact on unemployment, decimation of industrial production and, by implication, further contributing to a view that the most desired employee is the state or the local municipal authorities. Too little of the recent thinking on a new growth model for South East Europe has discussed the ecological dimensions5 whilst green growth is part of the EU 2020 agenda it has really not received the attention it deserves in the EU or in the SEE region. Why not focus more on green jobs, i.e. low-carbon, low-energy, low raw material jobs and jobs which protect and restore eco- systems and bio diversity and/or minimize the production of waste and pollution? Why not seize the opportunity to reward early adopters of green technology? Can the decimations of deindustrialisation be turned into a comparative advantage in a region with perhaps both the most intact, and therefore most vulnerable, eco-system in wider Europe? Why not be leaders in ecological food production, forest preservation, electricity production from wind and sunlight and, of course, sustainable tourism? All of this is important, in and of itself, but what is needed more than ever are new kinds of sustainable and redistributive eco-social policies which can achieve ecologically beneficial and socially just impacts promoting new patterns of production, consumption and investment, changing producer and consumer behaviour while improving well-being, and ensuring a fairer distribution of power and resources6.

Bartlett, W. and Prica, I. (2012) The variable impact of the global economic crisis in South East Europe. Papers on South Eastern Europe, 4. LSEE - Research on South Eastern Europe web: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/48037/ 4 a degrowth strategy implies a structured process of socially sustainable and equitable reduction in the amount of materials and energy that a society extracts, processes, and eventually returns to the environment as waste Kallis, G. (2011). In defence of degrowth, Ecological Economics, Vol.70, pp. 873-880 5 Although cf. Domazet, M., V. Cvijanovi and D. Dolenec (2012) What Kind of Grwoth, What Kind of Degrowth: the case of Croatia reconsidered', http://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/what-kind-of-growth-what-kind-ofdegrowth-the-case-of-croatia-reconsidered/ 6 Gough, I. (2013) 'Eco-social Policy', draft paper.

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Elements for a New Chapter in Enlargement and Integration Policy I am strongly against tying regional co-operation in South East Europe even more closely to EU accession, as a kind of new conditionality. This is not to say that forms of regional, subregional and cross-border collaboration should not be encouraged. One of the so far missed opportunities is that the Regional Co-operation Council, meant to combine all the strengths of the Stability Pact with the added value of local ownership, has grossly underachieved. The paradox, of course, is that in conditions when it is most needed, it is likely to be least effective. Perhaps the new leadership, combined with significant funding, could move it away from its technical, bureaucratic and inter-state comfort zone and make it a relevant actor again. With some partial exceptions, notably an FES-funded initiative on social cohesion, the RCC seems to be even less interested in social and environmental issues than the EU, itself, currently. Perhaps some support for the kinds of variable geometry, multi-level co-operations between diverse actors, within SEE, cross-border, between SEE and the EU and between SEE and key other actors (notably Turkey and Russia) could make a difference. I have even heard talk of the development of an index of regional co-operation which might be a way of exchanging good practice ideas without reinforcing the idea that these must always be framed in line with core EU trade, energy, security and border interests. Above all, supporting citizens' initiatives which widen the transnational public space has to be the key to a new kind of regional co-operation. Strengthening multi-faceted networks within SEE and their linkages to other networks, under a logic of mutually assured connectivity and solidarity not a logic of inter-state relations and mutually assured competitiveness is needed. In this kind of networked regionalism, the power of the hegemon (real or imagined) is challenged (at least symbolically). Tensions between political, technocratic and civic claims and approaches to governance can never be abolished but, in the kinds of scenarios Christophe Solioz and I have outlined, these become more visible and are, certainly, reworked and reconfigured in interesting ways7. As we live in interesting times, let us think not only about how to let a thousand flowers bloom, but how to change the rules within the garden itself.

Solioz and Stubbs (2012), page 44.

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ANNEX

The Integration of the countries of the Western Balkans into the European Union needs a new momentum
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung proposes to discuss during the conference Are the European Union and the Western Balkans drifting apart? on November 10, 2009 in Brussels the following call for a more energized approach and leadership of the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkans, and for further action to strengthen the European integration process: The last twelve months have been difficult for the European Unions policy towards the Western Balkans. Slovenia held up Croatias membership talks for ten months, Greece continued preventing the opening of negotiations with Macedonia, and several countries attempted to block Kosovo on its European path. Across the region, the receding prospect of accession has weakened the momentum for political, economic and social reform. The EU now needs to recommit to the region and reassure all its countries that they are welcome in the EU once they meet its conditions for membership. This is critical at a time of heightened economic anxiety! In turn, the governments, political elites and civil societies of the countries of the Western Balkans need to renew their commitment to peaceful transition and to European values. In order to give meaning to this renewed commitment, the EU also needs to rethink the instruments that it deploys in support of enlargement in the Balkans. These twin goals are best achieved if Sweden, the current holder of the EUs rotating presidency, convenes a summit on the model of the Thessaloniki conference of June 2003. Thessaloniki II could serve as a venue for the members and would-be members of the EU to discuss pending bilateral issues and ensure that they do not interfere with the accession process; negotiate a joint action plan to respond to the global financial crisis; and agree a pragmatic road map for EU integration, all in the framework of stronger regional co-operation. As immediate signals that the process of enlargement to the Western Balkans is still on track, the summit should offer candidate status to the two countries that have submitted membership applications - Albania and Montenegro - and the start of membership talks to Macedonia, a candidate since 2005. Enactment and implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia should be accelerated, with a clear road map towards candidate status outlined for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Kosovo needs an unambiguous promise that the EU will consider its membership application once it has reformed sufficiently, without prejudice for those member states that have not yet recognized its independence. After all, the EU is negotiating Turkeys accession even though several member states have made it clear that they oppose the countrys entry. The summit should also offer the Western Balkans a quick-start package to support membership preparations by giving the countries of the region access to select membership benefits starting in 2010. This would underscore that they are indeed part of Europe. The summit should decide on the immediate scrapping of visa requirements for all students and accelerate visa-free travel for all citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The summit also needs to adopt measures to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis and to re-emphasise the importance of strengthening programmes to promote social inclusion and social cohesion. This includes the possibility to re-direct pre-accession funding to budget support; a requirement that loan agreements with international financial institutions be in line with accession and pre-accession priorities; and ensure high-level EU representation in missions by these institutions. Regional co-operation, including on financial and economic matters, should also be given a high priority. A tangible commitment to a strengthened relationship between the EU and the Western Balkans would serve as a wake-up call both to the EU and the region that a stark choice is to be made: to be part of the EU or part of its fringes. With the Lisbon treaty much closer to ratification by all 27 member states, the EU is now in a position to offer a reasonable political perspective to the Balkans. The countries of the region must take reform seriously for the sake of their populations and not just in Page | 5

order to tick boxes during a technical accession process. At the same time, the blocking of negotiations as a result of bilateral disputes should be ended. Instead, a more flexible commitment to the integration of the region needs to be put in place, in which the countries of the Western Balkans play a full part in ongoing debates about the meanings of the common European Union project. Zagreb, Geneva, Berlin, October 30, 2009

Prepared for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung by Christophe Solioz, Centre for European Integration Strategies and by Dr. Paul Stubbs from the Institute of Economics, Zagreb

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