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Analysis: EU's Busek Says Kosova Needs 'Europeanization'

  • Patrick Moore

Erhard Busek (file photo) Austria's Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service in Prague on 18 January that the EU should have a greater role in Kosova even though it does not yet have a clear policy for the province. It remains to be seen how this idea will play among the province's ethnic Albanian majority, who generally favor a strong, continuing U.S. presence.

Busek's speeches and writings usually attract attention in the region and among outside experts because the Stability Pact is a clearinghouse for a wide variety of aid development projects. Busek himself, moreover, is a senior Austrian political figure with long years of experience in Balkan affairs (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 October 2003, and 21 May and 11 June 2004).

He believes that the EU needs a clear strategy on Kosova in the run-up to discussions on the province's final status widely expected later in 2005. Busek nonetheless stressed that the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) should be "Europeanized" because Kosova is of far more importance to the EU than it is to countries on other continents. He argued that the processes of the Europeanization of Kosova and developing a EU strategy for the province will go hand in hand and that there is no contradiction in his proposal.

Busek sees some very practical reasons for moving forward on clarifying Kosova's political future. "If you improve [performance on] standards, you also create a little bit of status. I will give you one example. We [in the Stability Pact] are obliged to [conclude] trade agreements between neighboring regions. If we set up trade agreements between Kosovo and Macedonia, Kosovo and Bulgaria, etc., we certainly create a little bit of status [in the process]. And here we need a clear line. As long as it is not possible for Albanians and Serbs to sit together in Kosovo, and as long as it is not possible for Prishtina and Belgrade to sit down together, I don't think we can succeed" in completing many practical projects.
"First of all, if we do not deal with the Kosovo problem, we might have more migration, more organized crime, more concerns regarding the stability of Southeastern Europe, and more obstacles on Serbia's path towards the EU. All these issues directly affect Europe."


Like many Balkan experts, he feels that the region has been wrongly neglected in the years since the conflicts of the 1990s, arguing that "everybody [in the EU] is looking at Turkey, but nobody is looking at Southeastern Europe.... We will not have peace in an enlarged Europe if we do not have it in Southeastern Europe."

Busek called on the EU to come up with a joint strategy lest it find itself lagging behind the United States again. He believes that "if the Europeans do not move, then it is typical for the United States...to lose patience" and act "unilaterally." Recalling some history from the 1990s, he noted that the "Europeans negotiated concerning the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina for four years and the result was nothing. Then the United States intervened. We tried to put pressure on [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic concerning Kosovo for a very long time, and nothing improved. Then NATO came in, the Americans together with others. And concerning Macedonia, it's a minor case, but the United States didn't ask the Europeans" when it recently recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June and 5 November 2004).

He argues that tackling Kosova's huge social and economic problems "should be a European responsibility, of course with the assistance of the United States and others, but mainly...by the Europeans. The reason is clear. First of all, if we do not deal with the Kosovo problem, we might have more migration, more organized crime, more concerns regarding the stability of Southeastern Europe, and more obstacles on Serbia's path towards the EU. All these issues directly affect Europe."

In short, Busek believes that UNMIK contains officials from "too many states" and that "too many cooks spoil the broth." He did not, however, address the view of many observers that the province's ethnic Albanian majority trusts Washington much more than it does Brussels and would be suspicious of any attempt by the EU to elbow the United States out of Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 December 2003, and 3 March, 20 August, and 10 September 2004).

In dealing with issues on the ground, Busek said that he wants Kosova's elected "provisional government to take more responsibility concerning security in the country, which means the security of the Serbian minority as well." He stressed that 2005 is when the EU -- with the help of the international Contact Group for Kosova and the UN Security Council -- must try to "bring together" the Serbs and Albanians in Kosova and the governments in Prishtina and Belgrade.

Regarding the Serbian minority and Serbia, Busek believes that it was wrong for the minority to boycott the 23 October parliamentary elections and for Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to encourage them to do so. Busek expressed his thanks to Serbian President Boris Tadic, who had urged the Serbian minority to vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October 2004).

Busek argued that there are two "open problems" in the Balkans: one is "Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo," and the other is Bosnia-Herzegovina. He feels that the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro must be made to work efficiently soon or else the two republics must "separate." Busek is more optimistic about Bosnia, where, he believes, High Representative Paddy Ashdown has moved matters "in the right direction" by sacking obstructionist officials.

Turning to Croatia, Busek believes that the imbroglio over war crimes indictee and fugitive former General Ante Gotovina "is hopefully nearing a solution." Busek notes that Croatia's economy benefits much from tourism but adds that the country still needs to enact many reforms, including privatization. Limited refugee return to Krajina and eastern Slavonia also remains an issue affecting Croatia's overall stability, if not its admission to the EU.

Busek believes that Macedonia was off to a good start after independence in 1991 but that the ethnic conflict of 2001 slowed its development. He called for the implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement ending that conflict and for an "Ohrid Two" pact to promote social and economic development.

Albania, he feels, has made progress in reforming its political culture and halting migration and human trafficking across the Adriatic, but it still has a long way to go in overall development. "The real problem for Albania is that it started from a really low level [of development] and has a very high unemployment rate. Sometimes I have the impression that the rest of Europe has wrongly forgotten Albania," which, in any event, will take longer than Croatia did to qualify for EU membership.
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