European Western Balkans

De Munter: Rome Declaration sounds like 'please do feel welcome, but certainly not any time soon'

Family picture, 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – Rome summit; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty, André De Munter, Policy Analyst, Policy Department, DG External Policies, wrote that the Rome Declaration sounds like ‘please do feel welcome, but certainly not any time soon’.

“There are many reasons to celebrate. Preserving peace for so many decades in the larger part of Europe is indeed a major and (literally) historic achievement. However, I deliberately avoid saying ‘peace in Europe’ as it would be at odds both with my definition of ‘Europe’ – which includes the so-called accession countries – and the reality that we have seen on the ground,” De Munter wrote on Facebook.

He said that that during the nineties they terribly failed the ‘Western Balkans’ when Yugoslavia disintegrated. “We were and remained onlookers as the Balkans fell once again prey to the atrocities of war. We watched the almost four year long siege of Sarajevo – the longest in living memory – and the struggle for survival of its population from the comfort zone of our living rooms,” he added.

“I expect more from ‘Europe’. The leaders signed the ‘Rome Declaration’, the umpteenth ‘ambitious’ document on ‘the way forward’ which once again squeezes loads of promises and (hopefully) good intentions in a few paragraphs,” De Munter said and asked what does it say about the seven countries (six Western Balkan countries and Turkey) that have been recognised as having a ‘European vocation’ for many years now.

“Directly, nothing at all. Indirectly, predictable vagueness prevails”, he said.

“We are extremely well-versed in being vague,” De Munter pointed out.

“In the declaration I read ‘keeping the door open to those who want to join later’. This almost sounds like ‘please do feel welcome, but certainly not any time soon’. One more sentence and we are almost done: ‘We want a Union which remains open to those European countries that respect our values and are committed to promoting them.’ This is followed by 4 points to which the EU ‘commits’. The only mention there which remotely relates to the Western Balkans (and presumably also to Turkey) is ‘promoting stability and prosperity in its immediate neighbourhood to the east and south’. Zero occurrences of the words ‘enlargement’, ‘accession’, or ‘(potential) candidate countries’,” he added.

De Munter explained that the reasoning was probably ‘Let’s not spoil the party and keep the declaration nice and tidy’. “Point taken. I intend to refer to the ‘Rome Declaration’ in my briefings at footnote level. That is its natural habitat,” he said.

He added that the leaders of the seven potential candidate and candidate countries had not been invited to attend the 25 March ceremony.

“In my view this was a big mistake and a huge missed opportunity. For a variety of reasons there is not a single one amongst them whom I like, but they happen to be the current representatives (whom we are in the habit of ‘cherishing’ for the sake of so-called stability) of the countries that we have offered a European perspective. They should have been involved in one way or another,” he added.

“If we don’t get our act together to make sure that they get their act together I would not be that sure about the prospect of lasting peace on the European continent. Let’s not fail them and ourselves again,” De Munter said.

“You will understand why I have very mixed feelings about this 60th anniversary and what came out of it. That’s also why I intentionally post these comments ‘the day after’. As a hardcore pro-European I grant myself this small rebellion,” he concluded.

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