On November 19, the Wall Street Journal published a whimsical essay by British historian Niall Ferguson, envisioning Europe ten years from now: a “Wholly German Empire” under the Hapsburgs, with Britain (re)uniting with Ireland (!) and the Scandinavians going their own way. For a few weeks, it looked like a harmless bit of fancy. After all, a German-dominated Europe sounded conspicuously like the alternate history conjured by Ferguson in his breakout work, The Pity of War. By December 9, however, reality began resembling the Fergusonian fantasy a little too closely for comfort.

The most far-fetched part of Ferguson’s vision was the inclusion of all the Balkans states into the EU by 2014; a symbolic act rubbing in the eventual triumph of the vanquished in the Great War. One could argue that the German ascendancy in Europe really began that December twenty years ago, when Helmuth Kohl’s government bullied London and Paris to let it carve up Yugoslavia. Perhaps re-uniting the shards under a German-dominated EU has been the endgame all along – though a far more likely explanation was that Yugoslavia became a sacrifice at the altar of German political and military resurrection following the Cold War. Either way, the 2014 plan is looking entirely too optimistic. Though Croatia was just approved for membership, and is scheduled to join whatever will pass for the EU in 2013, Serbia’s candidacy was put on ice, while Bosnia is nowhere on the radar.

A Long-Awaited Reunion

Twenty years ago, Croatia’s government thanked Germany for aiding its secession from Yugoslavia. Yet for all the talk of independence, Zagreb’s policies have actually amounted to returning to the Austro-German embrace, from which the Croats were torn in 1918 and again in 1945.

The irony, of course, is that HDZ, the party responsible for both Croatia’s secession and EU accession, was just catastrophically defeated in a general election. Croatian voters handily gave a majority to the opposition “Kukuriku” coalition, unable to forgive or forget the epic corruption and embezzlement scandal involving the former PM and HDZ party chief Ivo Sanader.

It may well be the very last election where Croatians decide their own fate; once in the claws of Brussels (and Berlin), they will only get to rubber-stamp decisions made for them elsewhere; and if they refuse, vote again till they get it right – like the Irish.

Quislings Snubbed

With equal zeal with which it championed Croatia’s accession, Germany has campaigned against the candidacy of Serbia. In a seeming departure from logic, the more obsequious and groveling the Serbian government got, the harder its accession process became. Yet there is a method in the EU’s madness: while it is definitely interested in the territory of Serbia, it is hardly enamored with Serbia itself. If Serbia could be further broken down, in more easily digestible pieces, that would suit the EU just fine; hence the endorsement of the self-proclaimed “Republic of Kosovo,” and support for the separatists in the north and the south-west.

It was Serbia’s case that made it obvious that in Europe, Germany is leading, while the others are either following or staying out of the way. Yet the hard line taken by Berlin towards Belgrade has actually been counterproductive. The EU commissars allowed themselves to believe a virtual reality in which the government they engineered in Belgrade was actually in complete control of the country, while in actuality that control rested on a thin veneer of deception, based on the promise of EUtopia. The government had staked everything on the candidacy; with that promise exposed as a lie, President Tadic and his cohorts are in a truly desperate situation. The Minister in charge of EU accession has already resigned. It is very much in question whether this government will survive until March – when the candidacy is supposedly to be reviewed again – and if it does, the April election will be the end of it for sure.

Lost in the Fog

Wedged between Croatia and Serbia, Bosnia is the silent casualty of EU power games. Entering the seventeenth year of a cold peace, the country is still hopelessly divided. Only Belgium had a worse record of being without a government, leading Bosnia by about four months; but with a motley coalition now established in Brussels, Bosnia is looking likely to match or – by April – even surpass Belgium’s score. Right now, Bosnia’s only exports are foodstuffs, lumber, and self-righteous victimhood. Once Croatia joins the EU, putting down an iron curtain of regulations and tariffs along 2/3 of Bosnia’s borders, that will be it for food and lumber.

Croatia’s EU accession will also further complicate the matter of Bosnia’s Croats. They are currently a constituent group within Bosnia, yet overwhelmingly hold Croatian passports and vote in both Bosnian and Croatian elections. Croat complaints of discrimination are at the heart of the current dispute about the joint government, but get ignored by the mainstream that sees only through the prism of the Serb-Muslim conflict.

As one columnist put it recently, Bosnia’s present political situation resembles the dense, oppressive fog that blankets the country during the winter. It is unlikely to be dispelled by the country’s politicians, who talk not to resolve problems but to generate them. But the country’s foreign overlords aren’t helping, either.

Whither the EU

Symbolically winning the Great War a century later may well be a dream of some politicians in Berlin and Vienna, and some wistful historians, but it remains unlikely in reality. All the Frau Kanzlerin’s horses and men won’t be able to put Yugoslavia back together again, so thorough was its destruction two decades ago. Bosnia’s agony will get worse, not better, as a result of Croatia’s accession. Having almost subjugated Serbia, the EU may well lose it entirely, and soon. And with the British demanding special privileges for London’s banksters, the question looms if the EU itself will be around for much longer, and in what form.

Indeed, one wonders if Germany might be doing all this deliberately, seeking to drive the UK (and the US) out and seek an accommodation with Moscow. And winter is coming.

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.