McCarthy and Joseph on the EU Summit, the Open Balkans and the “theory” that Kosovo and Serbia can reconcile themselves
“Waiting room without results”, this is how the current process of the membership of the Western Balkans in the European Union is assessed by Paul McCarthy, representative of the non-governmental American International Republican Institute (IRI), summarizing the epilogue and recent messages from the holding of the leaders’ summit of the EU in Brussels – which was partly devoted to the integration of the six countries of the Western Balkans.
Mc Carthy said that the situation in Ukraine caused the Western Balkans to leave the foreground, and that according to him, at this moment, Brussels will not offer any solution regarding the membership of the Western Balkan states in the European Union.
“I wouldn’t say that the EU has left the area, but it is definitely preoccupied with Russian aggression against Ukraine – trying to determine what consequences it might have on it. I am thinking here particularly of the possible economic consequences and the ways in which the Union will deal with them. This is now in the foreground – which has affected the fact that the Western Balkans in a way has come out of the foreground – and I don’t think that at this moment Brussels will offer any solutions in relation to that area”, he said. in an interview for the Voice of America.
Even Paul McCarthy warned that the current stalemate could have consequences in the context of the months-long military campaign that Russia is conducting against one of its closest neighbors – Ukraine.
According to him, this situation can lead to the destabilization of the Balkan countries, such as the problem between Kosovo and Serbia.
“In the worst case, which I hope will not happen, it could lead to the destabilization of the Balkan countries, which seem to have been left in their own hands to solve old problems – such as the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo. However, in a more optimistic scenario, current circumstances may lead them to resolve their differences on their own. The opening of borders, the strengthening of economic cooperation, the exchange in the field of culture – leaves the possibility that something good will come out of all this”, said the expert.
As for the Open Balkans, Mc Carthy said that Kosovo and Bosnia are seeing this initiative that is being led by Belgrade.
However, he added that any form of cooperation in the Western Balkans is welcome. ” It is necessary to define much more clearly what the ‘Open Balkan’ really is. There is no printed material for it either. Right now, it is about meetings, not always transparent, of the leaders of the region. I think they should present what they are trying to achieve much more clearly. This especially applies to Belgrade. What makes Kosovo and Bosnia ashamed is that they see the initiative as something Belgrade takes the wheel as a way for Aleksandar Vučić to increase influence and control in the Western Balkans. For Montenegro, it seems that this attitude has changed, considering that it enjoys greater support from Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic”, says the expert.
American expert Edward Joseph sees this initiative differently. He says that this initiative is dangerous, since the economies of the Western Balkan states are unevenly developed.
According to him, Serbia’s economy is much bigger than all the other countries of the Western Balkans, which according to him, when the barriers in this initiative are removed, the biggest benefits will go to Serbia.
“The initiative is dangerous for a very simple reason. By reducing economic barriers, you increase political risks – because the economies we are talking about are unevenly developed. The economy of Serbia is about fourteen times bigger than that of Montenegro. It is twice as strong as the combined economy of Albania and North Macedonia. Therefore, the economic imbalance is very pronounced. This means that, when you remove the barriers, the biggest benefits go to the biggest country – and that is Serbia. And economic power in the hands of an authoritarian regime is a prerequisite for danger,” says Edward Joseph.