BFP Exclusive- The Balkans & the Implications of the Possible Demise of the European Union

What if the EU is no more?

The ongoing Greek crisis has shown that not only the Eurozone, but also the European Union itself, is constructed on very fragile institutional foundations. It has shown that, in the long run, a monetary union without the federative political arrangement is not sustainable. Without the precisely delineated rules, as would be inscribed in a federal constitution, the economically weaker members of the EU become the victims of the dictates of those who are economically stronger. This leads to the democratically indefensible outcome in which the votes of some members of the EU count for more than the votes of others. As in George Orwell's Animal Farm, "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others". This is why it is very likely that the EU in its current incarnation is faced with a slow but inevitable demise.

It appears that the propitious political moment to establish a federative political structure has passed in 2005 when the French and Dutch voters rejected the draft of an EU Constitution.[1] Even though the EU has expanded since then, accepting into its fold Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and Croatia in 2013, the inclusion of these three Balkan countries did not make any significant impact on the democratization of the EU institutional framework.

In fact, more than by anything else, this round of enlargement was motivated by purely geopolitical concerns of trying to counter the growing Russian (and Chinese) economic and political influence in the region. What this means in practice could clearly been seen in the latter half of 2014 when the government of Bulgaria, under the pressure of the EU, was forced to abandon the plans for participation in the Russian-led South Stream gas project.[2] It is worth remembering that this issue precipitated the snap parliamentary elections in Bulgaria and brought to power political parties more willing to implement the EU-favored geopolitical agenda. In other words, not only did the strings attached to the EU membership prevent the realization of the project that could have provided much needed economic relief to ordinary Bulgarian citizens, but they also led to the externally incited political turbulence and the changes in the government itself.

It is true, however, that even though the EU as a whole has imposed economic sanctions on Russia, following the outbreak of the civil war in Ukraine, not all member states share the same level of anti-Russian geopolitical animosity. Due to a set of ideological and historical reasons, this confrontational agenda is prominent among the political elites in those EU member states which were either the members of the Warsaw Pact or the USSR itself. Not surprisingly, they are also the closest allies of the US-NATO Establishments and typically promote the explicitly racist "civilizational" narrative in which the more East you go, the more "barbarians" you encounter. Yet, the influential segments of political elites in the original EU countries, such as Germany, France, and Italy as well as their respective domestic audiences have been much more reserved and skeptical toward such attitudes.

Hence, in addition to the institutional weaknesses, these differences on the future EU geopolitical trajectory and the way it is ideologically justified among the member states represent another sign of the EU long-term unsustainability. Together, these two factors also seriously call into question the EU capacity for further expansion. This, in turn, has momentous political and geopolitical significance for the Balkans, especially for those countries which have spent the last decade or more in the process of the so-called "European integration".

 

What if the EU is no more?

Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albania are all in various stages of the process of the integration with the EU. Designated as the Western Balkans (the term which appeared in the US-EU parlance around the turn of the 21st century)[3], these countries have been encouraged by the EU technocrats to harmonize their political and economic systems with the EU. However, at this point, it appears that all expansion has been put on hold.

Sure, we can find a lot of statements by the top Balkan politicians, the assorted prime ministers and presidents, continuing to deceive their citizens by saying that everything is on track and that the membership in the EU is around the corner, to be expected by 2020 or 2025. This has proven to be a good electoral strategy. Faced with the hard economic realities and democratically unresponsive ruling class, the majority of citizens of the non-EU Balkan countries still see the EU as some kind of a panacea, as a cure for all economic and political ills. There appears to be a belief that the bureaucrats in Brussels are on the side of ordinary people as against the corrupt local oligarchs. Many citizens seem willing to appeal to the EU as if it were an impartial judge.

However, the recent sequence of events in Greece has exposed the deep contempt and loathing that the EU ruling elites feel for the basic postulates of elective democracy and popular sovereignty. It is enough to read the interview of the ex-Greek finance minister, a neo-Marxist economist Yanis Varoufakis, in which he talks about the way he was treated by other eurozone ministers to realize that this group considers itself both beyond existing laws and above popular democratic mandates.[4] It is quite apparent that the Eurozone finance ministers, under the command of the German finance minister Wolfgang Shäuble, manifested pure dictatorial hubris. Varoufakis was told that he would either submit or Greece would be crushed. There was to be no third way, and no wonder that he resigned. This, however, did not stop the infernal plan of destroying the foundations of Greek democracy from being put into action. That is what the new agreement the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has accepted is all about.[5] I find it ominous that there are forces in Europe which want to extinguish democracy in its ancient cradle, in the geopolitical space that gave birth to it. It is a boomerang that will bring chaos also to those who sow it. The nightmarish return to the ghosts of Europe's fascist past - the Weimar Europe - appears more than likely.

Whither the Balkans?

This is why it seems prudent for the citizens of the non-EU Balkan countries to consider alternatives to the EU. It is likely that the weakening of the EU will also lead to the slowing down of further Balkan NATO expansion. At times, over the years, it appeared that some in the NATO leadership (for instance, the former Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen) explicitly encouraged the weakening of the EU by playing up the differences between the so-called 'old' Europe (France, Germany) and the 'new' Europe (the ex-Eastern bloc), believing that the power loss for the EU will translate into the power gain for NATO.[6] Ultimately, however, the crumbling EU will encourage the centrifugal forces within NATO itself as we are beginning to witness not only in Greece, but also in France, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. This means that the Great Powers within the EU will increasingly start to get involved in the Balkans on the unilateral basis.

Moreover, the US might find that hiding behind NATO is becoming more and more cumbersome in protecting and furthering its own national interests in the Balkans. This is why it is likely to bring back to life its own regional alliance infrastructure, such as the US Adriatic Charter Organization (A5), which includes all the above mentioned countries (Serbia and Kosovo have observer status, all others are full members).[7] I am sure that there are planners within the US State Department/CIA nexus who would like to see this organization grow into something like a Balkan mini-NATO. However, there is no reason to expect that the majority of the Balkan citizens who reject NATO membership for their countries could now be persuaded to support its Balkan incarnation.

That is why this shadowy group is also active in implementing an alternative geopolitical strategy, which consists of building up and financing the historically revisionist Balkan projects such as, for instance, the "Greater" or "Natural" Albania in order to put pressure on the unwilling governments and populations. Here we are back in the familiar Gladio territory and, in fact, the way the recent terrorist incident in Kumanovo, Macedonia played out points to the dirty dealings of all the usual Gladio suspects.[8] To me, it is revealing that the nickname of one of the killed Albanian militia leaders was Commander NATO.[9] This operation appears to be a mix of the Gladio A and Gladio B strategies as the perpetrators have links both to the nationalist/fascist and Islamic networks.

At the same time, it is also clear that Russia is back in the Balkan geopolitical game. Two recent instances demonstrate this beyond any reasonable doubt. The first instance is the open and public support of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the government of the Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski against the resignation demands by the political opposition (which in turn appears to be supported by the US and EU officials).[10] This means that in Macedonia, in many respects, we have significant elements of the first US-Russia proxy conflict in the Balkans since the fall of Serbia's Milošević regime in 2000. The second instance is the recent Russia's veto of the UN Security Resolution, proposed by the British, concerning the horrendous July 1995 events in Srebrenica, which the UN tribunals have qualified as genocide, the claim officially rejected by the Serbian government.[11] The increased Russian involvement is a trend which will intensify in the future.

However, it is still early to talk about any formal linkages of the non-EU Balkan countries with the Russia (and China) led political, economic, and military international alliances. As the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are acquiring more permanent and better funded institutional structures, this question will increasingly be raised. Yet, at this point, there is scant evidence that these organizations will also not become plagued by the bureaucratization and democratic deficit which have fatally corroded the EU and NATO. If the EEU, SCO, and CSTO simply become the replicas of the EU and NATO (only with different, rival empires in charge), then there is not much that the Balkan citizens can hope from them. The membership in them would simply mean substituting one imperial master for another, whereas the point is to get rid of the imperial masters altogether.

For this to happen, one will have to revive progressive ideologies premised on the universal equality and brotherhood of ordinary citizens as well as on the common struggle against the domestic and imperial elite oppression and exploitation. This will obviously take time, but historical precedents do exist. Such has, for example, been the idea of a Balkan Federation advocated by many Balkan progressives since the end of the 19th century.[12]

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Filip Kovacevic, Boiling Frogs Post contributing author and analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco, and can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

 

ENDNOTES

[1] http://www.cfr.org/france/european-union-french-dutch-referendums/p8148

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28854089

[3] I first noticed this term some time after the fall of the Milošević regime in Serbia in 2000. It would be interesting to explore its origins as it contains clear geopolitical implications. Just like the term "the Balkans", it is not native to the Balkans, but is the product of the Brussels/Washington imperial discourse.

[4] http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2015/07/yanis-varoufakis-full-transcript-our-battle-save-greece

[5] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-13/eurozone-leaders-say-agreement-reached-at-greece-talks/6616448

[6] As their attitudes and behavior toward Russia show, they seem to be fond of the dangerous zero-sum games in the NATO Headquarters.

[7] http://mnmne.org/filip-kovacevic-from-a5-to-b3-the-role-of-us-adriatic-and-us-baltic-charter-organizations/

[8] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32695909

[9] http://www.abrasmedia.info/content/u-kumanovu-ubijeni-%E2%80%9Ekomandant-nato%E2%80%9C-i-%E2%80%9Ekomandant-begu%E2%80%9C

[10] http://rs.seebiz.eu/zasto-gruevskom-odgovara-ruska-podrska/ar-112506/

[11] http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/russia-vetoes-resolution-calling-srebrenica-massacre-32301237

[12] http://www.okde.org/keimena/vag_kout_balkan_inter_0603_en.htm

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