Erhard Busek, who heads the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact, told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 8 June that the unstable situation in Kosova affects the entire region and hence must be dealt with quickly.
He briefly outlined four points that must be addressed without delay. First, he said that someone must soon be appointed to succeed Harri Holkeri, who recently resigned as head of the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK).
Second, Busek called for the EU to take the lead in "Europeanizing the problem," by which he apparently means proposing a solution for the political and economic issues affecting Serbia as well as Kosova, especially since the EU expects Serbia to join the Brussels-based bloc in the long term.
Third, the EU must give Belgrade an unspecified "clear sign" even before the second round of the Serbian presidential elections, which presumably will follow soon on the heels of the first round scheduled for 13 June.
Fourth, Busek wants UNMIK's mandate "tightened."
He did not go into details on any of the four points, but it is clear that he believes that time is of the essence and that Brussels must offer the region specific pledges and conditions regarding eventual EU membership ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 October 2003 and 21 May 2004).
Many observers have long warned that a continuing lack of clear possibilities for Euro-Atlantic integration could lead to politically dangerous frustration in Kosova, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Other observers go a step further, saying that those three countries, and possibly some of their neighbors, could eventually become failed states or "black holes" in an otherwise united and prosperous Europe (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 August 2003, and 2 and 16 April, and 28 May 2004).
But undeterred by gloomy scenarios, representatives of many countries of Southeastern Europe belonging to Busek's EU-led Balkan Stability Pact met in Portoroz, Slovenia, on 8 June with officials from donor countries to mark the pact's fifth anniversary. The Stability Pact is a clearing house for a wide variety of aid-development projects to promote peace, stability, and cooperation in the region with the backing of the EU, United States, Russia, Japan, and foreign NGOs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2004).
It has achieved a high degree of cooperation between the countries of the region, more so than most people in the region realize, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. The pact helped conclude 21 free-trade pacts within the region to promote self-help and end dependency on countries outside the Balkans.
Many observers of Balkan affairs have long lamented tendencies in the region to look for trade and political ties first and foremost with the major powers. As a result, links between the Balkan countries have often been neglected. It is much easier to find people in the region who speak Western languages and have traveled extensively in Western Europe or the United States than to find people who know other Balkan languages and countries.
At the Portoroz gathering itself, Busek noted that democracy has become firmly rooted in the region. He added, however, that the pact will no longer be needed only when all the Balkan countries have joined the EU. He said that the prospect of joining not only the EU but also NATO has been the key force in promoting regional stabilization in the five years of the pact's existence.
Speaking on behalf of the host country, Slovenia's Janez Potocnik, who is a co-commissioner in the EU's Directorate-General for Enlargement, noted that EU membership is an ambitious goal but that it remains the only option for the countries of the region. He stressed that there are no shortcuts to membership, adding, however, that it is in each country's own interest to attain European standards.
Shortly before the Portoroz meeting opened, Busek warned against complacency over what the pact has already achieved. He also criticized tendencies in the postcommunist region to see the role of the state as paramount in building a better future. The pact itself takes pride in being small and efficient, employing only just over 30 full-time employees with an annual budget of $2.3 million.