Serbia and the EU – who needs who?

Though the EU – seemingly motivated by the US and “led” by Germany – rejected Serbia’s candidacy over its continued “refusal” to surrender Kosovo, it is increasingly apparent that the EU needs the Balkans inside even more than the Balkans needs to get inside.

By Gerard M. Gallucci

The European Union has said “no” to Serbia.  Chancellor Merkel’s order to the rest of Europe to become more German will probably lead to the unraveling of the Euro – and maybe the EU – as the mandated austerity will sooner or later splinter on the various national political realities.  In the middle of this, Serbia’s president, Boris Tadić, continues to tie his country and his own political fate to gaining EU membership.  One might see in this an a-historical strategic choice.

The EU – apparently motivated by the US and “led” by Germany – rejected Serbia’s candidacy over its continued “refusal” to surrender Kosovo.  The US seems to believe that all the Serbs need is some good hard hits on the head to come to heel.  In north Kosovo, US KFOR has acted on the ground to administer such blows (as on September 27th) while pushing the German/Austrian KFOR to do the same.

In the “diplomatic” realm, the EU is expressing its certainty that surely Serbia will get candidacy next year after it has shown the good sense to do as it has been told and give up the north.  The EU wants to see “actions and not words.”  The EU is careful to inform that this does not mean “recognition” but “normalization” of relations with Kosovo.  And taking down those nasty barricades that injured NATO soldiers trying to remove them.

However, “normalizing” relations with Pristina will not mean any special status for the north but rather bringing the north into Kosovo institutions on Kosovo Albanian terms.  The dialogue that Brussels has sought to use to find an un-American way to approach the northern stalemate keeps running into Pristina’s refusal to accept any practical arrangements that do not somehow entrench Kosovo sovereignty.  The US says it doesn’t have to.  Meanwhile, KFOR sometimes passes through the barricades and sometimes doesn’t because the northern Serbs refuse to let EULEX by until it stops taking Kosovo Albanian officials to the boundary crossings and KFOR still insists.  (EULEX is using helicopters for now despite the Kosovo Albanian officials sitting and doing nothing once there as the crossings remain blocked.)

Tadić remains wedded to doing everything he can for EU membership.  The northern Kosovo Serbs are worried that under EU pressure he might try to cut them off.  Perhaps stop paying salaries or withdraw the MUP.  As almost everyone knows, however, except apparently the Quint, Tadić cannot simply cut the north off, certainly not when the EU placed a noose around his neck and is kicking the chair out from under him.  He has to have somewhere to put his feet.

It has been said that the trouble with the Balkans is that it produces more history than it can consume.  It actually seems more that the Balkans produces too much history for the rest of Europe to consume.  It was the frontline for centuries in Europe’s defensive war with the Ottomans, who were still there just 100 years ago.  The “Holy Romans” and “Habsburgs” of today are now standing at the Gates keeping the Serbs out of Europe.  In truth, however, the EU needs the Balkans inside even more then the Balkans needs to get inside.

The EU loses if there is any “outside.”  As it is discovering, for a united European economy to work, everyone must be inside and playing by the same rules.  An EU based on exclusions and inequalities – where Germany can reap huge profits by selling to neighbors who don’t pay their debts – won’t work.  Austerity alone will only stop the buying and not resolve the problems.  And anyone left outside might do quite well taking-up with those who eventually fall out.

Serbia might be wiser to tell the EU that for now, it is comfortable with handling the Kosovo issue in its own way and when it is ready, it will get back to Brussels.  Don’t call us, we’ll call you?

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. Gerard is also a member of TransConflict’s Advisory Board.

To read TransConflict’s recently-released policy paper, entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here.

To keep up-to-date with the work of TransConflict, please click here. If you are interested in supporting TransConflict, please click here.



19 Responses

  1. Migena Pengili

    I am of the opinion that Serbia`s EU membership remains a strategic inevitability. Beacuse Serbia`s EU membership is of mutual benefit: for the EU and for Serbia.
    Of course, “one size does not fit to all” and Serbia has to make its own history by trying to resolve immediately the bottleneck with Kosova in guideline with the European conditionality for EU membership.

  2. Danny

    Serbia has done more then it’s share to arrest it’s own people, to stop crime and to make life the way the fake region of the EU want’s.. Now stop and look at what the EU really is? Just a name covering a few nations that only care about Power and Money, here religion means nothing, here people mean nothing. They bombed Serbia in it’s own territory for over 70 days killing innocent people and saying it was a mistake. A mistake? Kosovo is Serbia and the Albanian population if they don’t like living there well they have their own nation just to the west go back home! It’s all about money and power that is it, Politicians of the EU, Serbia, USA or Albania do not care about you or I we work to give them taxes to pay them to open our eyes to pay them to put food on the table. Every nation should remain it’s own this way we can keep our religions, our cultures, our language..

  3. George Sand

    Kosova, has never been, it is not and won`t be Serbia.
    History comes with its assertive facts: the Slavic Barbarian Tribes came to the Illyrian Empire land in the Vth century A.C.
    Then the history and the identity of this region is what we experience after London Conference of Ambassadors in 1913.
    Important is the future of the Balkans: will ever be peace, stability and security in this region?
    Is the Euro-Atlantic integration path pursuing in the right way? Why is Europe so silent towards what is happening in Mitrovica? Or there are other economic interests included?

    1. GMR

      If Kosovo was always Albanian, where all those Serbian historic monuments come from? The Aliens brought them down is couple of days??
      All you need to do is to look around yourself and the truth is right there, unless you choose to live with closed eyes and ears and to watch CNN for the rest of your life.

  4. I am afraid that certain politicians didn’t perform their best in the timely manner or their best wasn’t good enough. The question is should any of them continue to play the role they are given in this tragic comedy play. This opens up some other questions as well. How some of them didn’t realise that there are much more things to be done rather than just paper work and pure words?
    Thus the same goes for the case of Kosovo. Although I am disappointed with the way certain people treat Mr B Djelic resignation having in mind the obvious reasons under which the same happened. I would also like to state that Borislav Stefanovic can’t perform at it’s best since his hand are tied by his own political party which makes the whole situation much worse. so, form my comment, you may conclude that certain highly qualified professionals are being destroyed in a way by their own political party

  5. Vasa

    I’m convinced Kostunica would have done a far better job
    than Tadic, Tadic is not realistic
    He wants Serbia in the EU but the EU does not want Serbia

    He should have spent three years working on BRIC membership


  6. Mike

    To the Albanians posting here. Please stop talking about your “Illyrian heritage”. Just because you say it does not make it so. Fact is that despite years of trying and millions spent on finding the “smoking gun” you have proven nothing. Illyrians are an ancient group that lived all up and down the Adriatic coast. When other groups came to the Balkans those Illyrians assimilated into whatever group was close by. If memory serves me Albanians did not even have a written language until the last century or so.Hard to keep factual historical records without an alphabet don’t you think? You can name all of your kids Ilir that you want but it means nothing. I wonder how it is that Albanians have no problem with the idea of a greater Albania or “natural Albania” as they like to call it. They would have no problem taking land from Greece, Montenegro, Macedonia, heck they already have 15% of Serbia and would love to get even more if they could, Because they believe that where ever they live it must be historically Albanian and therfore theirs because they are after all “Illyrians”. Great logic huh? Yet in Kososvo for example they will not agree to let the north rejoin Serbia proper.So they can rule over Serbs but not the other way around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for ethnic seperation in the Balkans, but if the Albanians want all of their people in one state then they have to alow all others the same right, even if it is at their own expense. We can keep digging into history all we want to justify why different peoples have a right to this or that, but until hypocracy on all sides subsides there will never be peace in that region. We have to deal with the reality on the ground not some ancient claim to this or that, and that goes for Serbs as well. History has demonstrated that the people there can not live together for long without strife. The west in particular has played a big role in fanning the flames of hate. By using Titos administrative borders as a basis for division it was a sure fire recipe for disaster.They pick one side over the other by oversimplifying the conflict as good vs evil, but in reality there is enough blame to go around no angels or devils. Allowing Serbia to be chopped up while waxing poetically of Bosnias territorial integrity is a bad joke at best. There are clearly two sets of rules at play here, one for Serbs and one for everyone else. BTW what exactly does Kosova mean in Albanian? If the land is truly yours then your name of Kosova must have a meaning in your language.In Serbian Kosovo is derived from the word Kos. That is a black bird common to the area. Kosovo or even Kosova has no meaning in Albanian whatsoever. Taking a Serb word and adding an A to the end does not change a thing. If it did then Serbs would have added an “ovich” suffix to all things Albanian and claimed it for their own. I’m not anti-Albanian per se but everyone needs to break out of their nationalistic comfort zone in order to find a real solution to the problems there. In the end Serbs and Albanians alike want a normal life to live free and leave a better place for their childern then the one they found.Greetings to all people of good will.

  7. Ivan a Serb in the US

    The US State Department and the Germans hate Serbs, that they cannot purchase and give orders to. This will always be true of our Overlords. They only wish to control / strip / steal in order bleed us for their gain. They portrayed us as the instigators and aggressors. Any legitimate argument we may have is not given even the slightest grain of worth. Our history of 700 years of slavery and willingness to stand against Nazi’s and their islamic supporters is only our nationalistic evilness in their view. I live in the US and I find the people have no idea of the real historical events of the region and quite frankly do not care. There is no such thing as a Kosovar, that is not even a real word. There are no bosniacs. The people who live there are Serbs and Croats who were converted to their Islamic counterparts when the lovely Turks came and converted as many as they could. Kosovo is a Serbian word and the land is our Jerusalem. They will continue to kill us, destroy our churches and deny any legitimate issue or law that we in reality deserve. They believe we should collectively pay forever, they will never consider us their friends. My only wish in life is that Serbia have a great leader like Benjamin Netanyahu! If only Bibi were a Serb, no offense to legitimate leader Kustunica.

  8. George Sand

    “If memory serves me Albanians did not even have a written language until the last century or so.Hard to keep factual historical records without an alphabet don’t you think? ” Bad Memory!

    The first Albanian document dates 1268, is the Baptism Psalm.

    The first Albanian dictionary dates on around 1400,is that of Frang Bardhi.

    I don`t share the opinion of a Greater Albania or a Greater Serbia, or Greece. The fact is that the solution of Greater states in the Balkans represents an extremist nationalistic view. And I don`t share the opinion that the thoponyms should have a sense to be declared legitimately that they belong to a country.
    I strongly believe that we should put a stone over this and continue to think about our future, about the future of our next generations.

  9. George Sand

    As well I share the first opinion of Migena. EU and Serbia need each-other. Serbia needs to accept its fate and Europe has to be more concretely involved in the Euro-atlantic future of the region.

  10. David Kanin

    In my view, it is not important for the EU to have Balkan states “in.” What is important is for the EU–finally–to be able to demonstrate it can manage that lively region. Since at least the Maastricht Treaty, the development of European institutions has paralleled the collapse first of Yugoslavia and then of serial “status quos” the EU and US have attempted to impose or hold together. For 20 years the cheeerleaders of Europe have focused on the Balkans as the place where they would prove the EU matters as a security power. Events have done anything but proven this case. The EU–which has yet to demonstrate it can get its financial house in order (the deal last week is more smoke and mirrors) also has not demonstrated it can get a handle on conditions in the Balkans that continue to change no matter its lectures and conditions. Even in the best of circumstances, membership is many years away for Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Kosova and so not anything for any of these states to hang their tattered hats on.

  11. George Sand

    EU has it benefits of expansion in the Western Balkans.

    Amongst the benefits that EU-Western Balkans relation will bring to the EU are the following: Future survival of the union ( =the ideology survivalof the union.); political and security benefits; economic benefits.

    History has proven that hegemony expansion of a union of states is driven from policies and actions that the union undertakes to establish itself as the pre-eminent power in international affairs. The Cold War is one of the many examples: The West (USA and WE) and USSR (Soviet Union) with its allies, where both blocs used their “spheres of influence” of geographic entities ensuring as a consequence their national security.
    European Union was created on 1950 as a necessity to unite the Western Europe politically in juxtaposition to the Soviet “spheres of influence” created with the beginning of the Cold War (1947). Today EU being politically matured with a universalistic concept of conducting domestic and foreign policy promotes the member- states` interests and serve as a model of governing based on the neo-liberal ideology of institutions operating together. In fact ideology is an indispensable tool to create and maintain a connection between states.
    EU ideology is linked to power and threat opportunity. From this relationship derives a second relationship: domestic political culture linked to strategy, diplomacy, war and peace. From the second relationship derives the third and last one: military capabilities to diplomatic initiatives. These relationships altogether explain the fluidity and the maturity of the political, security and economic conditions for the Union survival, that are going to be explained in the next sub-sections.

  12. Nikola

    First of there was not Albania in 1200s or 1400s George Sand is a liar, first about his name then about his goal… Serbia has existed for 1500 centuries, Albanians came around 1600s as an Ottoman sheephearing tribe. That is the truth, accept it or you are an extremist,it’s that simple since history can not be changed for reasons of your hatred to Slavic and Greek people.

    Serbia has agricultural treasures that many countries dream of, the only reason it’s not prosperous is the goverment AND EU coruption. The goverment is payed by Pollacs to try and ruin Serbian raspberry same as Milosevics regimee did for Serbian cherry. EU shoud be afraid since we’ll burn down all their embassies once we burn the parliament. Enough is enough, polititians must go. Humanity has been throo kings, emperors, tzars, soltans now it’s presidents that need to fall! It’s not freedom, democracy is a lie! A freedom is when all countries people vote and decide like the corrupt polititians in parliament. We have them saying “don’t mix politics and sports” yet it’s the minister of sport that says so. Political parties are more important then people and ideologies then prosperity. It’s not religion,like those atheists-masons,like to tell us,no the problem is politics. We do not need them and the world is starting to fight for freedoom!

  13. George Sand

    I am more sorry and I feel pitty for you Nikola, although you hold the name of a Saint: Saanto Nikola. I feel pitty for the your young age that is fed with extremism and blindness.
    It is obvious that your hurt feelings put a stone and mud on everything, this made you confusing dates and telling to people liars, burning embassies and behaving as barbars.

    If you think that you will gain something with this satanic behaviour, I am sorry but you are planting only desert identity for the next generations of Serbia to come.
    I have not read about and I have not seen a single nation in this world that wants to write its history being based on legends as Serbia is doing. It is pitty, since in the middle of Belgrade there is the Skadarlija ulica, that witness of good and respectful relationships that existed between the two nations.

    It is more than surprising that Serbia still continues to put supremacy through violence and committing crimes. This is what has always happened in the wars conducted from Serbia through centuries.

    This does not work. I invite you to see the future with tollerance, patience and love. To give something for your children, if you plant hate you will live and be hated.

  14. Another Nikola

    There is no right answer to this debate. Both sides will lay claims and looking into the depths of history for support. We all know this history is poor inaccuracy as we date back.

    What we all know (Serb and non-Serb) is that since the break of Yugoslavia apart from Slovenia, all the other states are worse off. Like in the 90s, today the topic of Serbia’s Kosovo or Albania’s Kosovo won’t be decided by logic, common sense or by the truth. It will be decided by men in suits behind closed doors which are backed my lobbyists of some questionable affiliations. The decisions will be made not on how can we improve the lives of the people but how can we benefit our own interests.

    I am deeply disappointed at all the hate and lack of common sense I see in fellow readers comments. We often forget, that in Kosovo pain and suffering does not discriminate between Serb or Albanian. Fact is that when people choose to work together they prosper.

    Also George Sand, you are right. Serbia has committed crimes, but so have all the other states. There is no clean hand in the Balkans. In WW2, Muslims for Kosovo joined the Nazis and ran concentrations camps. In 1998 KLA was a terrorist organisation according to CIA, but then in 1999 got reclassified. This KLA was then accused of capturing non-Muslim inhabitants and harvesting their organs. They also destroyed 300 Churches.

    The reason the sorry state that the Balkans is in is due to the contribution of all the ethnic inhabitants. Using Serbia as an escape goat is not the answer and is the recipe for future conflicts.

    Thank you for reading.

  15. Slobodan Milosevic

    i am Serbian and people from Serbia same as me do not want to be in european union eu,there is not our place also its bad for Serbia and also we are not catholic or protestants ,Serbia,s place is with Russia and China in eua euro Asian union only

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