Balkans: No “Plan B”?
Balkans: No “Plan B”?
The Western Balkans: Fragile Majorities
The Western Balkans: Fragile Majorities

Balkans: No “Plan B”?

I recently made the mistake of questioning the Western Balkans’ European Perspective — well, not really.

I was at a conference on Bosnia and I made this comment: The EU’s main tool — its “Plan A” for the Balkans — is the transformative power of the accession process; yet countries like Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania are all temporarily or persistently blocked by “sovereignty issues” or domestic troubles; and not only is the EU’s appetite for enlargement shrivelling, the Eurozone crisis has us doubting the Union’s own future.

There’s also the question of what EU these countries will be joining: a “two-speed” union with the undesirable Balkans relegated to the slow speed local service while the core enjoys the shiny, comfy high-speed line? If you agree with that, I asked — and it seems pretty uncontroversial — then “what’s the Plan B”?

I heard over and over again that “there is no Plan B” — that there’s no alternative to the Balkans’ European future. Even after I explained that I wanted to know how a weakened European pull could be reinforced, not replaced, by complimentary foreign policy instruments, the “no plan B” mantra continued.

“No Plan B” sounds good: it sounds committed and decisive, and those are good things. But it’s bad policy. It is simply reckless to entrust the stability of the region entirely to one weakening tool, especially when there’s so much else.

Instead, as the EU candidacy carrot weakens, all international actors have to work together. NATO enlargement (which calls for many of the same reforms the EU requires), the OSCE, the Council of Europe and its Venice Commission (still more trusted in some quarters than is Brussels), the United Nations and its many agencies, the World Bank and IMF, the role of the United States, Turkey and Russia, the International Criminal Court, and probably most important, the bilateral and multilateral relations between the countries of the region.

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