Staff-prepared summary of the East European Studies discussion with Erhard Busek, Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe and the Southeast Europe Cooperative Initiative (SECI).
Dr. Busek emphasized that the overall thrust behind the activities of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe is that this region should be part of the overall integration of Europe and that this will be reaffirmed at the upcoming EU summit in Salonika. He noted that it is premature for the summit in Salonika to set precise dates for the entry of several of the countries of Southeast Europe, but that Bulgaria and Romania had already been offered possible entry in the year 2007. For the rest, he expects the summit to set down “a road map” for future integration.
Dr. Busek noted that so far, for all its continuing problems, Southeastern Europe is moving forward on both the political and economic fronts and has been experiencing relatively quick growth rates. But he noted, of course, that several major problems remain, one of which is not confined to Southeast Europe. What is needed is a change in the overall European view of the Balkans and Southeast Europe, which tends to look down on this region as a chronic problem and does not differentiate among the peoples who live there. Two large problems that remain to be addressed are military reform and reform of the judicial and court systems. While most of the militaries in the region have been downsized and limits placed on weaponry, key questions still remain about civilian control of the military in Serbia, about the need for the Macedonian military to incorporate adequate numbers of ethnic Albanians, and for Bosnia to finally establish a single joint military between the Muslim Croat Federation and the Bosnian-Serb Republic.
Perhaps the most deep-rooted problem of the region remains the unreformed court and judicial system and the need to drastically overhaul the antiquated Communist system and personnel. Dr. Busek noted important changes in Serbia after the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic and the replacement of 35 leading judges. But, in his opinion this is just scratching the surface.
Related to reform of the judiciary is the fight against organized crime and corruption, which continues to infest the region. Dr. Busek praised the recent success of SECI’s regional anti-crime center in Bucharest. He also emphasized that while organized crime is a problem in the Balkans, it is far from the only region in the world burdened with this problem, and noted the link between organized crime in the Balkans and the constant and growing flow of narcotics coming in from Afghanistan and Latin America.
Turning to the Stability Pact’s many infrastructure-building projects, Dr. Busek reported that 70% of Stability Pact money is being spent on rebuilding highways and other physical infrastructure. He emphasized that while these projects have their utility, long-term stability and economic development cannot necessarily be built solely with such projects. The main reason for this being that they do not adequately address underlying issues such as long-term unemployment. Instead, he emphasized the need to concentrate on the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and outlined the work the Stability Pact was doing on these issues together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the IMF and the World Bank.
The festering open problems confronting the Stability Pact in the Balkans, in his view, are the two “protectorates” in the region – Bosnia and Kosovo. Both show some promising developments, but both are also plagued by critical issues of sovereignty and underdeveloped political and economic structures. He noted that only sovereign, independent states can enter the EU; therefore, those who view eventual integration of the Balkans into the EU as solving the problem of the future status of Kosovo need another approach since Kosovo is not a sovereign state and is not likely to become one in the near future.
Dr. Busek concluded by emphasizing that the last thing Southeast Europe needs now are further border changes, which can only produce more instability. What the region does need is patience from the international community and a longer period of time for the processes of reconciliation to take deep root. Reconciliation and stability cannot be commanded either from above or from outside the region, but need to develop gradually through economic and social improvements, and generational changes.
Martin Sletzinger, Director, East European Studies, 202-691-4000