“EUgoslavia”: Between Balkans Membership and the Yugopean Union
This post is also available in: French
By Aris Kokkinos
Translated by Danica Jorden
Photo : Davide Martinotti
On April 24, Cafebabel organised a debate on expanding the European Union to include the countries of the former Yugoslavia, bringing up the taboo subject of: Are we seeing a Europeanisation of the Balkans, or a Balkanisation of Europe?
This question was discussed at length by all the speakers, long-lived clichés notwithstanding. Led by Mana Livardjani, the debate distinguished itself by noting that the Balkans can’t be categorised as either a folkloric land nor a murderous battlefield.
Ksenija Milenković, Deputy Head of the Mission of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union, underlined the changes that have taken place in her country. They've permitted the emergence of a lawful state, an organised civil society, and an active political scene; basically a democracy. Recently advanced by fits and starts, differences and divergences, it is a hard-won reality. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is representative of this change.
Ines Sabalić, Croatian journalist who is the Brussels correspondent for Globus Zagreb, Vijesti and the SRNA agency, brought up recent 22 January referendum in Croatia on EU membership. With 66% voting “Yes,” Croatians chose membership, but taking place at the height of rising populism in Europe, many expressed skepticism towards Europe, with Marine LePen calling for the Croatian people to oppose the “Hydra of Brussels.”
Nevertheless, Croatia will be the 28th member state in 2013. Bernard Snoy et d’Oppuers, professor at the Institute of European Studies (UCL) and former director of the Working Table II of the South Eastern European Stability Pact, was then congratulated on the immense progress accomplished in the region since World War II. Recalling that the ties that unite the Balkans to the rest of Europe are not only geographic but also historic and cultural, he underlined the importance of following the roadmap set by the parties.
Jonas Jonsson, Head of the Western Balkans Division of the European Union External Action Service, estimates that in his opinion, the region is evolving in a positive way. Along with its case by case ambiguities, the European Union is perceived as a whole in the region as being a force for stability and integration, reinforcing hope for the future.
The question and answer session qualified the scene, however. The public, amongst whom were many Eastern European expats, demonstrated their interest in the region, often optimistically but at times with bitterness. Some feared the effect of the Balkans changing from a supranational state to a Brussels “Eugoslavia,” with the small difference that whereas the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was imposed on its people, the European Union is adopted by its member states.