Western Balkans with EU, European or global perspective

Article published on Oct. 14, 2008
community published
Article published on Oct. 14, 2008
Some day ago I was reading here Cafebabel an interesting article "Europe: between pragmatism and utopia" by Igor Caldeira. Few core questions there were following - "Dutch, French, Irish - synonymous with ‘eurosceptic’? Does 'No' mean 'No Europe', 'No to Europe' or 'No to this Europe'? What other Europe could there be if there is just one geographical, political, historical and cultural reality?
". I have been wondering same questions from my Balkan point of view related especially to Western Balkan's alternative ways with strategic alliances.

All non-EU states in western Balkans have been sad to have European perspective e.g. that sooner or later BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania and even Kosovo - inside or outside Serbia - would be future EU members. I can not avoid some questions, like

Can EU any more absorb new members and simultaneously keep alive some its ideas? Are European perspective and EU membership the same? Are benefits from joining to EU bigger or less than being outside it? Is there any alternative strategic alliances to EU?

Today´s EU

EU was meant to be an association of independent regions that pursue their own policies and serve the interests of their people. Today´s EU has Parliament sitting and travelling between Strassbourg and Brussels with zero power and authority. Instead Commission, their army of bureaucrats, lobbyists from different interest groups are keeping EU as their playground. Due the high risk of corruption EU tries to limit damages with Auditors (In Brussels I once heard that there is more auditors in EU than people who are really implementing some practical task). The Parliament´s Puppet democracy is showed by interpreting all speeches/documents to all EU languages and verse, sad that no one is listening or reading them.

EU is today already so big that democracy and efficiency are in constant conflict. When Ireland said no to Lisbon Treaty in democratic referendum it same time paralysed EU structure. If EU is enlarging even more the decision making mechanisms and maybe the tasks of EU should be reconstructed again - it should find the core functions again and cut off extra branches, trim the budget and administration. Today EU member states are paying more or less their taxpayers money to common budget and are receiving more or less back through some 500 different EU programmes. When common bureaucracy, Puppet democracy and corruption are taking increasing share so on the field one sees less money and actions. The bottom line is that EU´s ability to absorb enlargement is questionable and even if it could come bigger what´s the idea to join to it.

European perspective vs. EU membership

One common custom is to equate European perspective and EU membership. I totally oppose this equivalence. Almost half of Europe´s territory and 30 % population is not EU members. Does anyone believe, hat e.g. Switzerland and Norway have less European perspective than member-states. Western Europe shows only one part of wholeness of our continent, eastern Europe and also Byzantium are part of continent´s history. Perspective can point East as well than West.

EU has brought many benefits to its citizens - visa-/passport-free traveling and healthy competition over borders, more market economy instead protectionism, comprehensive multidimensional standards numbers of public and private fields. EU has also offered a forum to manage conflicts with peaceful manner.

However some of these benefits can be applied also without EU. For instance one can travel from Finland or Sweden (EU) more easy to Norway (non-EU) than from Hungary to Romania (both EU). Some standards outside EU can be better or worse than inside but one should remember that those standards are decided closer in one state and are not some compromise made in Brussels.

Being outside EU does not mean to be outside EU financing. EU has e.g. its border programmes with neighbors to finance transnational projects and also some inside programmes are open to non member-states. Economically inside EU each member has different case if they have surplus or deficit and how much with their EU budget, the same is valid future new members.

With this article I have highlighted some negative aspects with EU. In case of my home-country Finland I must confess that I have enjoined about many positive things EU has brought to my country, many projects and wider view which could be impossible without membership. Critical questions I have highlighted to break simple black and white picture which is familiar in simplified mainstream media in western Balkans. The question is too important to let it only to join or not level.

Some options for strategic alliances

So big question is if there is any alternative strategy to joining EU? I would like to see following options to taken into consideration in all non-member-states of western Balkans :

Strategic linkages to the BRIC countries - Brazil , Russia , India , China. These countries are representing rising economical, cultural and political powers (and markets) in three continent while Western Europe and USA are more and more going towards stagnation or moderate development at most. Association Agreement without goal to come member-state could be good alternative and realistic also. Because EU can not absorb Turkey this kind of arrangement can be the most used alternative to enlargement by membership. Every country can negotiate their own association and cooperation agreement and highlight those topics which are important each individual state. Cooperation can be very wide with most of EU member benefits, of course also EU gains its share about cooperation e.g. with logistics through trans-European transport (roads, railways, energy, telecommunication ...) corridors. European 'Free Port Zone' - models could be e.g. Kaliningrad, Singapore, Luxemburg, San Marino. This position can make non-member state popular with people who want to live in Europe but do not like high taxes and with businesses that engage in international manufacturing, trade and commerce.

EU is not miraculous power which brings economic and other development with membership status. More important is what people are doing in each western Balkan state. They can develop their societies with or without EU depending individual needs and priorities. If they can develop good country for themselves (not because EU) it can be good country also for outsiders and e.g. diaspora can start to invest back to their old home-country like one can see now for instance in Russia.

More about Balkan/Caucasus topics one may ind from my BlogArchive