Balkan Futures discussion: How should EU approach the region?

BRUSSELS – It is good for the local Western Balkan governments to find solutions on their own, but the EU should remain engaged in the region; otherwise, it is almost easier to make excuses for it not joining the EU anytime soon, said Stefan Lehne, Visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe.

Togethter with Alexander Kmentt, Austrian Ambassador to the EU Political and Security Committee, Lehne participated in the discussion organised in the context of Balkan Futures project, launched this year by the European Institute for Security Studies and supported by the European Fund for the Balkans.

The discussion took place in Permanent Representation building of the presiding EU country, Austria. It has been reported by Roxanna Azimy for the Euro Babble.

One of the reason why the EU should maintain its involvement in the region is the possibility of potentially destabilising solutions, such as border change, that could be reach without it, Lehne emphasised.

Even though changing of borders has often been successful for peace, that has not always been the case, and the latter would apply for Kosovo, Lehne believes. He used the example of Israel and Palestine to illustrate how getting to an agreement can lead to “generations of conflict and untold torment”.

He does not expect a solution for Kosovo to be reached anytime soon and urges for more activity of EU in that particular country.

Amassador Kmentt found the view many Eurocrats hold on the enlargement problematic. They believe that Europe is the best place on Earth, and that this excellency simply must be extended to the Balkans as an act of goodwill, he explained. It is a slightly arrogant and misinformed way to look at the enlargement process.

Kmentt also highlighted the importance of economic development, pointing at the rising revenues from tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Although on the right track, the country, like its neighbours, has room for improvement, he concluded. Social stability and the rule of law would create an even better environment for economic growth. This is important, because prosperity brings the promise of EU membership closer.