The enlargement of the European Union to all the Balkan countries offers an opportunity. Without a great plan, enlargement could prove to be a failure and fuel tensions, including military ones, writes Dario Velo, Full Professor of Pavia University.
The debate on the enlargement of the European Union to include the Balkan countries has begun. Some European leaders have taken a firm stance in favour of this enlargement.
A glance at a map of Europe is enough to allow one to grasp how two enclaves, a cluster of Balkan countries and Switzerland, stand out within European Union’s borders. Behind these anomalies are two different stories.
Switzerland is deeply integrated into the European Union; not a member state because at the last referendum, membership was rejected through the resolute vote of farmers fearful of losing the privileges afforded them by the Swiss Confederation.
The situation in the Balkan countries is different. There are historic legacies, as well as religious and political problems. Some Balkan states see NATO membership as an essential condition guaranteeing their defence.
The case of Serbia is emblematic. Serbia is an important country for the Balkan Peninsula. It represented a problem, culminating in a war. Serbia can help build a more advanced order today.
Serbia has had a deep bond with Russia which has lasted centuries. The bond is religious; the Patriarch of Moscow is a recognised authority in Serbia, even at the political level. The importance of him is not unlike the importance that the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, has in many European countries. This political link, in the broad sense of the term, with Russia has been consolidated over the centuries.
The entry of Serbia into the European Union could provide an opportunity for progress to be achieved in relations between the European Union and Russia.
In terms of defending peace, two organisations are active, NATO and OSCE. NATO is in crisis. When Turkey joined NATO, no one could have imagined the expulsion of the US Ambassador from the country. This has happened in recent weeks, even if President Erdogan has had to change his mind. This is a reflection of NATO’s difficulties today. It is difficult to say whether the crisis is due to Turkey, or whether Turkey has simply seized the opportunity of NATO’s weakness by strengthening its own sovereign authority in the region.
This situation makes growing collaboration between NATO and the OSCE desirable. The latter is being called upon to play an increasingly important role.
In this context, the role that can be played by the Council of Europe, which includes Russia and Turkey, should not be underestimated.
The entry of Serbia into the European Union offers the opportunity for a great agreement between the European Union, Russia and the USA.
Several solutions are possible.
This Carolingian model could be replicated to solve the border problems between Russia and the European Union. This solution would have tactical value, allowing the Union to initiate ever deeper integration. This tactical solution would facilitate the strategic option of an Economic Union between the European Union and Russia. The ultimate goal could be a Federation reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The enlargement of the European Union to all the Balkan countries offers an opportunity. Without a great plan, enlargement could prove to be a failure and fuel tensions, including military ones. As always, opportunities come with risks, which must be managed with foresight.