European Western Balkans: The Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy has been presented almost a year ago. From this distance, how would you assess the importance of this strategic document and its effects?
Nathalie Tocci: Unlike the 2003 European Security Strategy, the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) was supposed to be as much about the shared vision (as depicted in the document itself) as about the common action, as the title of the Strategy itself suggests. In one year much has been done already concerning the translation of the shared vision into common action, beginning with an operationalisation of resilience, to common work across the internal-external policy nexus, and of course security and defence, where the greatest momentum can be seen possibly in the entire history of the European project.
EWB: How do you see the importance of the Western Balkans for European security?
NT: The Western Balkans are an integral part of Europe, they will be an integral part of the European Union one day. Hence, European security hinges on the Western Balkans as much as it does on EU Member States. There can be no European security without democracy, prosperity and security in the Western Balkans.
EWB: Within the Global Strategy, EU enlargement is considered as a tool for increasing resilience of neighbouring states and is thus vital for EU security. At the same time, there is an impression that there is no real desire for admission of new member states in the foreseeable future. Do you believe the EU is interested in enlargement as such or just in having the accession process as a useful foreign policy tool?
NT: I have never heard any EU official or political leader publically or behind closed doors suggest that the Western Balkans will not eventually be part of our Union. The accession process is indeed a powerful foreign policy tool, but the goal for the Western Balkans is enlargement itself.
EWB: There are many who accuse the EU of giving priority to stability over democracy in the Western Balkans and tolerating authoritarian tendencies in the region because of stability and compliance with EU’s migration policy. Would you agree that long term goals such as increasing resilience and supporting democratic reform can be in direct clash with short term interests, or as stated in the Global Strategy, “delivering concrete benefits today”?
NT: The reference to “concrete benefits today” in the EU Global Strategy regards in primis the citizens of the Western Balkans. The EU is cognizant of the fact that enlargement is not imminent and that “EU fatigue” may kick-in in the Western Balkans itself. Hence, the need for the EU to deliver concrete benefits to citizens of the Western Balkans today so as to ensure that reforms in the region continues apace.
EWB: Much attention has been given to the role of “external actors” in the Western Balkans, above all Russia and Turkey. How do you see the strength of these external influences? Do you believe they could threaten the EU by striking at its “soft underbelly”, as many claim?
NT: No I do not believe this will happen. And I say so because I am firmly convinced about the European future of the Western Balkans. This said, it is indeed essential for the EU to strengthen the resilience of the Western Balkans allowing countries of the region to resist and bounce back from destabilising external interference if and when this occurs.
Nikola Burazer, EWB Executive Editor
This article has been produced with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy. The content of this article and the opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the portal European Western Balkans and in no way reflect the views and opinions of the Balkan Trust for Democracy nor the German Marshall Fund of the United States.