Balkans and the EU

In a day or two, the European Union is set to accept 10 new member countries, many of which were once dominated by another Union – Soviet. One of the ten is the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia. On the occasion, the London-based supporter of Empire (and EU, unsurprisingly) IWPR published a series of articles analyzing the “progress” of Balkans states towards the EU. It makes for interesting – if sordid – reading, reiterating the misconceptions, fallacies and errors that have riddled Western understanding of the Balkans for the previous 15 years, and likely even longer.

A Devouring Beast

Framing the issue are three articles: a pep talk by Javier Solana, an analysis of obstacles by a lecturer on EU enlargement, and a call for a “bolder” Balkans policy (without actually saying what it might be). The less said about the first two, the better. What saves the third from worthlessness is a quote by Heather Grabbe, deputy director of the London-based Centre for European Reform:

“The union will suffer a lengthy digestion period after it absorbs the first ten [countries],” said Grabbe. “It may have little appetite for another round.”

A gigantic beast, devouring entire nations and “digesting” them: quite an apt metaphor for the EU. Of course, the inevitable result of the digestion is not mentioned, but the digested will feel it nonetheless.

Fortunately, only one of Yugoslavia’s successor states will be joining the EU in two days’ time. Croatia just received a green light to begin the accession process, and is being aggressively sponsored by Ireland (!), Germany, and Austria. But for others, there is still hope.

Macedonia: Bureaucracy Now

According to IWPR’s correspondents, Macedonia is beset with problems that have “arrested its development” towards the EU. By that they don’t mean the terrorist-coddling Ohrid Agreement, with its system of ethnic quotas and corrosive political patronage. No, they blame first and foremost the “stifling centralisation of power, which makes local government impotent and leaves ordinary people feeling alienated from an unresponsive bureaucracy.”

Brussels, anyone?

Too much corruption, too much politics, too big of a state sector – these are all “issues” identified by IWPR and analysts it has chosen to interview. No one mentions how the problems, though existent before, are now closely bound to the Ohrid agreement and the need to politicize everything when it comes to the Albanian minority. Nor does anyone note that bloated bureaucracy, politicizing of everything and widespread “corruption” (in this instance, conflict of interest) are salient characteristics of the – EU!

Still, Macedonians see entry into the EU and NATO as the only way out of their present economic predicament and the ongoing threat to their national existence. It is to be expected that any government in Skopje in the foreseeable future will be working towards compliance with EU dictates in hope of one day being devoured by the Leviathan.

Bosnia: Unity or Bust

Not surprisingly, IWPR’s Bosnia correspondent harps on a theme that it is the forced-together country’s lack of a strong centralized government that hampers its efforts to become the kind of state the EU would want. Just look at some of the language in the article:

“overarching institutions in the country, which are capable of speaking for both entities, need to be strengthened […] demonstrate the country was truly unified and able to speak with one voice […] Bosnia’s current administrative system is far too complex and cumbersome […] long way from having an efficient and functioning state…”

By now the point should be obvious: Bosnia really ought to become a centralized state. But wasn’t that a problem in Macedonia? Well, there is no room for logic in these matters. And never mind that the desire for centralization was in good part behind the bloody civil war of the early 1990s. There is nothing a more powerful government can’t fix, or so the dogma goes.

In keeping with that, Bosnia is said to need some 45 new laws and 25 new institutions, plus:

“compliance with existing international obligations, more effective governance, a more effective public administration, more effective human rights provisions, judicial reform, a drive against organised crime, more effective management of asylum and migration, customs and tax reform, budget legislation, the production of reliable statistics, a more consistent trade policy, the creation of an integrated energy market, the creation of a single economic space and reforms to public broadcasting…”

Again not surprisingly, most of these measures are aiming for the abolition of the Bosnian Serb Republic, even though the real “inefficiency” is engendered in the 10-canton Muslim-Croat Federation. The Dayton system, which has enabled Bosnia’s survival as a country for the past eight years, has been continually eroded by both the locals and the succession of Imperial viceroys. Now it seems set for final demolition, in the name of “joining Europe.” But the only thing Bosnians will join if they scrap their peace treaty/Constitution will be a new round of ethnic conflict.

Serbia and Montenegro: Amputation Treatment

When it comes to Serbia and Montenegro, IWPR follows ICG’s lead and advocates their divorce. While Montenegro’s current leadership is so committed to “democracy” that it plans an independence referendum in order to avoid an election it might lose, IWPR has no trouble with this. Serbia, on the other hand, they say “lacks a political consensus about its European destiny and widespread resentment about the indictment of war criminals feeds strong anti-European sentiment.”

Say, aren’t “war criminals” people actually convicted of war crimes in a real court, as opposed to people merely accused by a fake one? Irrespective of this deliberate semantic lapse, such an assessment would actually be wonderful, if true. But it isn’t – accusations by Imperial apologists notwithstanding. Why would a government that is supposedly “restoring the Milosevic regime” (as the aforementioned apologist alleges) appoint Vuk Draskovic, an outspoken Milosevic foe, to be Serbia-Montenegro’s foreign minister? Draskovic, whose English leaves much to be desired, wasted no time in declaring Serbia’s absolute commitment to Europe, and even full obedience to the Hague Inquisition. His coalition partner, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, pledged devotion to Europe back in February, even before he officially took office.

One gets the impression that it’s not Serbia that fears and hates Europe, but the other way around. Serbia is the largest of Yugoslavia’s successor states. Supposedly, it is also the least easily controlled, at least in the minds of Western policymakers whose views are expressed by ICG, IWPR and other outlets. Their preferred method of controlling Serbia is through amputations – first of Kosovo and Montenegro, then Vojvodina, Raska (“Sandzak”) and maybe other areas as well. Only thus crippled will Serbia be “safe” enough to re-educate in the virtues of self-denial and multi-cultural diversity, Europe’s ideology of choice.

The Folly That Is Europe

To see EU accession as a panacea for all the political and economic ills afflicting the Balkans today is sheer folly. If anything, these problems will become exacerbated as a result of increased statism even trying to join the EU brings. This view also reveals a major character flaw, most likely occasioned by a century of violence and decades of Communism: only people with a massive inferiority complex see prosperity as only possible through attaching themselves to someone wealthier and more powerful.

The EU stands for welfare state, one that is increasingly determined to stamp out individual liberty and establish omnipresent governmental control – all in the name of “human rights,” of course. So why would anyone embrace it, least of all so eagerly? Well, a lot of EU hopefuls in the former Eastern Europe may be seeking a replacement for their broken Communist dreams, and see the European (as opposed to Soviet) Union as a vision of what Marxism failed to deliver.

One indicator of this is the constant talk of massive economic subsidies joining the EU would bring. Few are aware that they would be funding those subsidies themselves. The EU is not an economic powerhouse, except in state statistics. Its population is aging and shrinking, its economy is stagnant and over-regulated, and its workers are straining under an enormous tax burden necessary to support the massive welfare state. Hordes of third-world immigrants imported to lower the price of labor and fill menial jobs (as well as destroy cultural particularities and promote dependency on government) find it hard to fit into host societies, creating friction and conflict. One is definitely tempted to see the eastward expansion as a drive to acquire more productive economies in order to prop up the failing welfare system. But as the newcomers find themselves mired in the same morass of tyrannical regulations, saddled with a huge bureaucracy and forced to enact the same bizarre and wasteful policies that have proven such a drag on older EU members, their economies become welfare-oriented as well, and their productivity drops.

Philosophy of Destruction

Europe’s economic and social policies are not the only thing that is bankrupt. Its underlying philosophy is corrupt as well. Symptomatic in this regard are the rants of Bernard Henry-Levy, a Frenchman whom the BBC called “one of the foremost living philosophers in the Western world.” He thinks that Bosnia, with its ethnic mix, is “something to which all Europe should aspire.” This delusion about Bosnia’s multi-cultism does not even remotely correspond to the violent and divided reality of that forcibly maintained “nation.” Following Levy’s prescription would lead Europe in short order into a spectacularly violent orgy of self-destruction, one that would make the Bosnian War seem romantic in comparison.

Henry-Levy’s madness does not end here. He regards the EU primarily as a tool for destruction of national particularities, believing that “All that allows us to bypass nationalism is good.” Also evident in his BBC interview is Levy’s fundamental commitment to multi-cultist policies of guilt. In addition, he champions social engineering and humanitarian intervention (he was an outspoken partisan of the Izetbegovic regime in Bosnia).

Yet Europe’s greatest strength has always been its heterogeneity, the fragmentation of its political and cultural landscape that drove competition and innovation as well as conflict, and enabled the European (now called “Western”) civilization to make such an imprint on the rest of the world, for good or ill. Such a divided Europe advanced both the philosophies of free market and socialism, individual liberty and omnipotent government, universalism and nationalism. Levy’s vision is but one extreme of European civilization, composed of legacies that are morally dubious and empirically violent.

He wants to make Europe resemble Bosnia, and the BBC – along with many others – praises him for it. What more proof does one need that the West has truly fallen?

One More Thing To Lose

That the Balkans countries see their future in the EU is the best indicator of how dire their current predicament is. While it may seem that they have everything to gain and nothing to lose by joining the EU, this perception is fundamentally wrong. They do have one more thing to lose, the most precious of all: freedom to create a future of their own, for good or ill. If that, too, is gone the way everything else has disappeared over the past decade, the triumph of despair will indeed be complete.

Is that the future any of these people really want? Surely not.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.