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Balkans Shaken by the (Euro) 'No's'
ipsnews.net ^ | Jun 1, 2005 | Vesna Peric Zimonjic

Posted on 06/02/2005 1:31:48 PM PDT by Destro

Balkans Shaken by the 'No's'

Vesna Peric Zimonjic

BELGRADE, Jun 1 (IPS) - Leaders in the Balkans have tried to play down the significance of the French and Dutch 'no' to the draft European Union (EU) constitution, but their fears have shown through.

The countries are either queuing for EU membership or aspiring to it. The rejection of a common constitution that binds the EU could weaken the bloc they seek to join.

Statements by presidents or prime ministers sounded much the same, from the former Yugoslav countries to Romania and Bulgaria.

Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader told reporters in Zagreb that "the idea of a united Europe is not under threat." Serbian President Boris Tadic said the French rejection "doesn't mean the end of integration....it could only cause a change of pace, but Europe will not be complete without Balkans."

Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski said he hoped that the 'no' "does not mean that new nations will not be able to join the EU."

Former Yugoslav countries see joining the EU as a much needed stimulus for their economic development, particularly after the devastating wars of the 1990s. But there is a different timetable for all of them.

Croatia is widely expected to join the EU by the end of decade, like Macedonia. Serbia, due to the decade of isolation under the regime of Slobodan Milosevic will only begin talks on the association agreement in October this year. It is not expected to join the EU before 2012.

Romania and Bulgaria signed entry treaties last month. They are expected to join the EU in 2007.

"European integration is a strategic long-term process which must not be disrupted by a referendum," said Bulgarian foreign minister Solomon Passi. The Romanian government issued a statement reassuring the nation that "there is no legal correlation between the vote on the EU constitution and EU enlargement."

But while leaders and officials sounded optimistic, many analysts see it differently.

"The 'no' will bring the rise of Euro-scepticism among the Balkans countries," Milica Delevic from the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade told IPS. "People here are aware that the 'no' was a kind of punishment for the enlargement from 15 to 25 last year and no improvement whatsoever. This is a thing that might be used against EU membership."

Delevic's views were echoed by the head of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party Tomislav Nikolic in parliament.

"We should put under question our hurry to join the EU," Nikolic said. His party was an ally of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who led Serbia into the wars of the 1990s before falling from power in 2000.

The radicals, the second most popular party in Serbia, insist on the continuation of the isolationist politics of Milosevic's era. Under Milosevic and his radical allies, Serbia lived through unprecedented isolation at the end of the last century.

Srdjan Darmanovic, political analyst from tiny Montenegro told IPS that the French and Dutch 'no' would influence the future of the Balkans countries.

"The failure of the referendum in France and the Netherlands will certainly slow down the enlargement process, but it will not be stopped," Darmanovic said. "It is also to be expected that the EU will have less time for the region and a less active role here."

Recent surveys showed that 62 percent of Serbs and 75 percent of Croats would like to see their country as a member of the EU. But analysts see scepticism under the surface.

A recent survey in Croatia showed that some 55 percent of people feared they might lose their national identity within EU.. "The isolationists and xenophobic circles on the political right scare people with such a possibility," Croatian analyst Darko Bekic told IPS.

Croatia became independent from the Serb-dominated former Yugoslavia in 1991 in a war that took 20,000 lives. Many Croats think that being in the company of former Yugoslav people like Serbs, Bosniaks or Macedonians even in the EU is out of the question. Some articles in Croatian newspapers have described the EU as resembling a centralised Yugoslavia.

In Serbia, animosity against the EU is strong. Apart from the radicals, some nationalist-oriented media have stressed only the problems of new members in the EU. One of the most frequently raised concerns is the difficulty citizens of new member countries face in getting jobs in the original 15 countries. (END/2005)


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: balkans; eu; euconstitution; eurofreude; europe; turass

1 posted on 06/02/2005 1:31:51 PM PDT by Destro
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To: Destro

I don’t know. I just have a hard time conjuring up any empathy for any of these folks. You can’t fix something that was broken from the onset. One can’t right something that started with a flawed premise. None of these folks saw this coming in someway or another?


2 posted on 06/02/2005 2:02:33 PM PDT by Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)
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To: Destro
The Romanian government issued a statement reassuring the nation that "there is no legal correlation between the vote on the EU constitution and EU enlargement."

This is true. Many here on FR are confused on this point.

3 posted on 06/02/2005 3:22:20 PM PDT by rogue yam
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To: rogue yam

But there is in fact a profound political correlation. It is a distinction without a difference.


4 posted on 06/02/2005 4:08:06 PM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: CasearianDaoist
But there is in fact a profound political correlation. It is a distinction without a difference.

I honestly have no idea what you are saying.

The EU exists. That is, there is a set of agreements and institutions that constitute the EU as it is presently organized. The proposed EU Constitution would change those agreements and institutions. The French and Dutch electorates have voted not to adopt the proposed EU Constitution, but those countries have not left the EU.

Romania, Bulgaria, and others are faced with the choice of joining the EU as it presently exists. The fact that the proposed EU Constitution appears headed for defeat means that the EU will continue to have those same characteristics as it did when Romania and Bulgaria signed agreements to join in 2007.

The fact that the EU is unchanged is no reason for these countries to change their attitude toward the EU. This is what the Romanian minister was saying, and I believe it is obviously correct.

Some FReepers think that the "no" votes somehow change the EU, rather than serving to reject change. This is what I was pointing out to be an erronious reading of the situation.

As for what you are saying, who knows?

5 posted on 06/02/2005 4:39:30 PM PDT by rogue yam
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