Eichhorst: A Place for the Western Balkans in the EU's Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy

Angelina Eichhorst; Photo: Wikimedia Commons, EUinLebanon

Angelina Eichhorst, Director for Western Balkans and Turkey of European External Action Service wrote an op-ed for our portal ahead of her participation at “Deepening of the EU’s Security and Defence Cooperation in a Multi-Speed Europe” conference organized by ISAC Fund in Belgrade. 

Nearly one year ago, HRVP Mogherini presented, and EU Heads of State and Government endorsed, the EU Global Strategy.  The Global Strategy recognises that our citizens want a stronger, more secure Europe, yet it also recognises that none of the countries of Europe has the strength or resources on its own to seize the opportunities or address the threats of the 21st century.  This feature of the modern world, the ineffectiveness of trying to go it alone, applies equally to EU Member States and our partners in the Western Balkans.

The challenges confronting the Western Balkans are the same challenges the EU faces. The EU and our partners are together on that, be it the fight against transnational organised crime, the management of migration flows, ensuring energy security or the security of all our citizens.  Today’s threats do not respect national borders. It is not idealism that leads populations in Serbia or Albania to seek to bind themselves with other Europeans. It is realism and a recognition of our mutual interests that tell us that we need each other. Only by working together we can meet our shared challenges and successfully respond to common threats.

The most effective approach we have to attaining our common goals is through the integration process.  In the Global Strategy, and in the Rome Declaration from March 2017, the EU and the Member States reconfirmed their openness to those European countries that respect our values and are committed to promoting them.  The EU’s integration is the best tool we have for bringing the Member States of Europe and the Western Balkans to the same table to forge common solutions so that all Europeans can live in peace, freedom and prosperity.  The Global Strategy recognises that a credible enlargement policy is a strategic investment in Europe’s security and prosperity, and has already contributed to peace and stability in the Western Balkans moving far beyond the wars of the 1990s.

Within the EU, we have taken rapid steps towards implementing the Global Strategy since its launch last year.  In November 2016, the European Council adopted an ambitious set of goals to push forward the agenda for EU defence and security.  The Council set out three strategic priorities: protecting the European Union and its citizens, reforming how we respond to external conflicts and crises, and building the capacities of our partners.

In the Rome Declaration in March, European leaders noted the unprecedented challenges facing the EU, both global and domestic, from regional conflicts, terrorism, and growing migratory pressures, to protectionism and social and economic inequalities. They agreed to work towards four goals: a safe and secure Europe, a prosperous and sustainable Europe, a social Europe, and a stronger Europe on the global scene.  The partners in the Western Balkans play important roles in achieving all of these goals, through their strong European perspective, their commitment to EU values and principles as shown through alignment with Common Foreign and Security Policy, and the positive benefits accruing in the integration process.

A clear example of our partnerships in the Western Balkans can be seen in our Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operations.  The EU fields 15 civilian and military missions worldwide, with tasks ranging from thwarting piracy off the coast of Somalia to security sector reform in the Central African Republic and the restoration of lasting peace in Mali, which is essential for the long term stability of the Sahel region and enhances security for both Africa and Europe.  Our partners in the region provide altogether nine contributions to the EU missions.  Serbia is a leader in our CSDP efforts, providing personnel to four EU military operations, and has always responded when invited to support EU missions.

For Serbia and the EU, which is the focus of the conference in Belgrade this week, additional areas of cooperation are Serbia’s commitment to contribute to the EU’s HELBROC battlegroup and the good cooperation between the Serbian Ministry of Defence and the European Defence Agency.

The EU and our partners also contribute to regional and global security through other means, including our development assistance, our active engagement in international organisations, our adherence to core values and principles, and our commitment to building strong and resilient societies.  By investing in development – the EU provides EUR 80 billion each year in development assistance, covering 69% of global official development assistance and is by far the largest donor in Serbia and the rest of the region – by investing in the fight against climate change, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the development of responsive domestic institutions, and many other lines of effort, we are also investing in our own stability and security.

Finally, citizens understand that building strong, resilient societies – with robust democracy, human rights, good governance, jobs and education, everything which the EU has been promoting through its enlargement process – is also strategic investment. Together, by pooling our strengths, addressing our weaknesses, and with a strong commitment to our common values and goals, we can meet any of today’s global challenges. We are one European family. We are one European Union.