An enlarged EU which includes the whole Western Balkans as well

Hashim Thaçi

The 8th "To be Secure" (2BS) Forum, held in Budva, Montenegro, came up with the initial thesis that the EU pillars have been shaken by the economic crisis, migration crisis and by Brexit.

It is important that when we are facing such an opposing context, we do not forget the issues which actually work.

The rise of the right wing populism is a current tendency in Europe, but it is not the only prevailing characteristic.

Different tendencies, at times in contradiction with one another, are evident at the very same time. There were opinions which foresaw a Brexit domino effect, immediately after the referendum, as a momentum which would create a wave of populism victories.

But in fact, what we are seeing is the truth that EU remains strong and that pro-European forces have achieved electoral victories in majority of its member states. Even more, the success of the “En Marche” movement of the French President Macron last year, is only one of the obvious examples.

EU, supported by NATO in the security sense, is the greatest and most successful peace project of the continent to date. Problem remains with the groups and circles which do not unfortunately see EU as a peace project.

37 years have passed since the end of the war.

Only the very oldest generations still carry memories for the war. But in Western Balkans, the situation is different.

The memories and the sufferings of the recent war are still alive with everyone in |Kosovo.

To us, EU is an example of peace, reconciliation, overcoming of the past, of the expansion of cooperation and gradual inter-dependency.

Of course, EU is not just a peace project. It is a structure of a supra national governance, which continuously expands and deepens the cooperation in all political and economic fields.

EU enlargement must not be brought to doubt. For this reason, my main message to this forum is: the rising tendency of the right wing populism must not be used as justification for the EU member states in order not to keep open its door to Western Balkans.

Today, EU must pay more attention to the handling of economic crisis, migration and to access to enlargement policies.

We the countries of the Western Balkans, must implement all the necessary reforms. Undertake economic reforms in order to strengthen the public finance and to strengthen the macroeconomic stability.

Improve the cooperation in internal and security issues in prevention of illegal migration.

Thus, for a successful membership of Western Balkans in EU, we need deep political and economic reforms and AQUIS harmonization.

EU’s Euroscepticism and enlargement fatigue must not be used by the politicians of our region as a justification for non-reforming. Without reforms, there is no improvement and development of the lives of our citizens.

Thus, if we in Kosovo would have submitted to the logic of populism, we would not engage in the dialogue with Serbia. 

We would not be working towards a final agreement on normalization of relations and reconciliation with Serbia. If populist sentiments would be taken into consideration, demarcation of the border between Kosovo and Montenegro would have never been passed by the parliament.

I would like to express my highest appreciation and gratification to the Montenegrin authorities, for their continuous understanding and patience with the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo on this problematic issue, which albeit was of a more internal Kosovar political issue in nature.

Few days ago, EU Summit was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, with the participation of the countries of the Western Balkans. This was Kosovo’s first ever participation on equal footing with the rest of the participating countries.

This was an affirmative presence for the state of Kosovo, with the participation of all EU countries, apart from the Spanish Prime Minister. There, we heard clear messages stating the EU itself needs modernizing and is in need of reforms.

We also heard the clear message from the leaders of the institutions of the European Union and leaders of its member states,  that countries of the Western Balkans must solve remaining issues between them, because no one is going to admit them  with the potential issues and without concluding the necessary reforms.

Conclusion of the demarcation between Kosovo and Montenegro, opportunity for the conclusion of the name issue between Macedonia and Greece, continuation of the dialogue with Serbia and successful foreclosure in the near future, would be considered as good signs emitted by our region towards EU.

Kosovo welcomes these engagements. 

On the other hand, it is also the time for European leaders to take upon themselves the opportunity and not follow the reactive policies for short term gains. To see what is good for Europe in the long term. The answer is clear. An enlarged EU which includes the Western Balkans in its entirety. People of the Balkans are not perfect but they are good Europeans.

This must increase our responsibility and we must pay attention to the fact that the European future is not a gift but a responsibility.

(Op-ed taken from the president Thaçi’s speech held at the 8th "To be Secure" (2BS) Forum, part of the “The Right Wing Europe” panel, in Budva, on May 22nd, 2018).