A lunch in Jerusalem, a lunch in Paris, twenty years between
The EU showed the weakness of its foreign policy with the Franco-German Plan. He took a finished product of 2023 and "successfully" returned it to 2013
Almost 20 years ago I was at lunch in Jerusalem. I was invited by a Jewish friend, university professor, writer and former diplomat. With a long life experience he mentioned to me an answer he gives to people coming from the EU to give suggestions on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved:
"Why don't you solve the Kosovo-Serbia conflict once and then come to us?".
Last week and nearly twenty years later, a French friend in Paris, a university professor and one of the best connoisseurs of ex-communist Europe, invited me to lunch. We looked at Europe today, including the part that was communist with Russia's war against Ukraine, and my friend said that if you were asked about the future of Europe, he would suggest that Ukrainians look closely at the Western Balkans.
It is likely that the negotiation process for EU membership will be opened for Ukraine at the end of this year (together with Moldova). Twenty years ago, the Western Balkans were promised a European perspective. One country, Western Macedonia, has the same experience as a candidate state for membership.
Ukrainians, engaged in a meter-by-meter war on their own territory, will find it difficult to understand the comfort of the Western Balkans. And, it is not that there are any good lessons to be learned from here: the EU does not have any good results in pacifying or integrating the countries of the Western Balkans.
On September 14, the EU showed how weak it can be in its foreign policy. A year after Germany and France (later Italy also joined) produced a unilateral plan for the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and with the pressure of the great weight of the personal investment of the German prime minister and the French president, they managed to obtain the consent of Kosovo and Serbia. the EU's mediation produced a series of negotiated and over-negotiated texts that deviated so much from the original plan that they returned the negotiations in 2013. That is the "historic" concept of the EU that, in exchange for the territorial autonomy of the Kosovo Serbs , Kosovo and Serbia to start a normalization process that would probably lead to the de facto recognition of two separate citizenships. After many years of failures and wanderings (including Thaçi-Vučić talks on the exchange of territories), Germany and France came out in September 2022 with a plan that explicitly established the relations between Kosovo and Serbia as relations between sovereign states, which within this framework legal mechanisms would find solutions to mutual problems, including other innovative modalities for the protection and development of the identity and living conditions of Kosovo Serbs.
EU mediation in the last 12 months turned the Franco-German Plan upside down and turned it into a caricature of 2013: create autonomy for the Kosovo Serbs, then we'll talk about the rest.
It is difficult for Ukrainians today to focus on the details, but if they want to understand the EU's policy towards the Western Balkans, then the details are more important than the big headlines of historic agreements.
In November 2022, after many years of negotiations, and with the decisive influence of Germany, the six countries of the Western Balkans signed three mobility agreements within the Berlin Process. One of them, that of moving from one country to another with identity cards, was supposed to be a symbol of normality for a region that in 2020, at the Sofia Summit between the EU and the Six of the Western Balkans, had pledged to create a market common regional with the establishment of the four freedoms of the EU in their territory. In November of this year, i.e. in 2023, it is likely that one country, Bosnia-Herzegovina, will not ratify this agreement, since the representatives of the entity (with blocking power) called Republika Srpska do not allow this agreement to be ratified, because it affects "vital interests" of this entity.
Moreover, in May of this year, the Republic of Serbia, in the regular constitutional procedure of approving an international agreement, ratified the mobility agreements by law. In the ratification text, the Assembly of Serbia also made a trick that invalidates these as international agreements. The Assembly of Serbia described its reservation in the text, noting that the fact that it ratifies this law as an international agreement does not mean that it has concluded an international agreement with Kosovo according to the Vienna Convention on Treaties; It continues to treat Kosovo as "the territory of Kosovo and Metohija as part of the Republic of Serbia".
In November last year, European diplomats hoped that an important double test had been passed. On the one hand, the free movement of citizens of the six countries of the Western Balkans became possible. On the other hand, a legal precedent was established on which future agreements could be built, i.e. the legal precedent of the equality of the parties.
A year later, these still remain objectives to be achieved, and at this rate the next lunch in twenty years somewhere would prove that the EU still hasn't learned anything.
Where did Ukraine come from in this narrative?
For the simple reason that for twenty years, since the Thessaloniki Summit, the EU has not had any answer to the unfinished conflicts of the Western Balkans, and the countries of this region would remain where they are, in a permanent process of conflict management. , if Russia's war against Ukraine did not break out. With the outbreak of this war, the instinct of historical duties was revived in the EU and during a year and a half it joined in supporting Ukraine. At the same time, the EU is responding to this big epochal change with an equally big epochal change: treating Ukraine as a future member state of the EU. In this revival of the historical instinct, it must have occurred to quite a few people that it would not be graceful to start membership negotiations with Ukraine, but not with BiH or North Macedonia, for example.
So, twenty years later, it took a long struggle for the Western Balkans to revive their EU membership ambitions.
But the Ukrainian wave on which the countries of the Western Balkans are now riding may pass without any results to remember, if the measuring box of progress is the current foreign policy of the EU.
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