I am writing these lines in Novi Sad, Serbia. I am not in this country for the first time, I have crossed it several times in the last years, in some places I insisted and looked at it with curiosity. Beyond the natural beauties and the historical or cultural points of interest, which interest me a lot, I liked to observe their places, people and settlements. We have done the same thing several times in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (North) and Albania.
Of these countries, which are “united” by the fact that they are not in the European Union, in Serbia I was most struck by the lack of public money, money for public investment (roads, highways, sewerage, drinking water, rehabilitation of public spaces in towns and villages, hospitals, schools). You see it in rural areas, but also in big cities, even in Belgrade. This evidence has always made me think about where Romania was in the 1990s and early 2000s and the differences we observed at the time between Romania and Hungary or Slovakia, which were in an advanced process of European integration, or even already members of the European Union. I had the opportunity then to see how much these countries have changed for the better in European money. Then came the turn of Romania, which benefited enormously from this money. I’m not talking here that he could have benefited even more or how much he stole. But it is obvious that Romania has made a lot of progress with this European money.
The lack of European money to help the above countries is obvious and they are in dire need of it.
Of course, there is something much bigger behind European money: the process of integration into the European Union. And at the moment, the process is somehow interrupted for several reasons. I, as a simple citizen, with an elementary political culture and without being a specialist in international politics, see here an integration process interrupted indefinitely due to circumstantial or deeper causes. One circumstantial cause is the huge crisis caused by Coronavirus. But that will pass. Then, deeper causes would be the tendency of some countries (both among the classic EU engines but also among the countries that joined after 1989) to look at the Union with skepticism and to ask themselves not about enlargement, but about their own contribution to the good. they went or even about their own stay in the Union. I’m not talking about these things, I’m just saying that in the EU we are not going through a period of enthusiasm now.
They return to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (North) and Albania. Of course, no one in the EU is asking them about their willingness to integrate at this time, but their integration is necessary and mandatory for several reasons.
First of all, they are European countries and their place is in Europe and in the EU. Their history, traditions and culture have always been European, each of them has made a major contribution to today’s European history and civilization, and this is not the place to develop this theme. A simple look at the map shows that these countries are part of Europe.
Then, these countries, feeling reservations or even disinterest from the EU, are tempted to look at other horizons. This is not about betrayal or lightness, but about the holy reality of everyday life. These countries have to live, they have to feed their citizens, they have to build highways and hospitals for them and they are tempted to look for money elsewhere (Russia, China, Turkey). We can’t blame them for that.
The other day I was talking about these things with a college colleague and I understood the whole problem. At one point he told me about the Chinese money and said “Easy money”, to which I replied “Complicated money” and he was right. The “success stories” of Chinese investment in Montenegro and Macedonia are well known in Serbia, people know these dangers, but money is needed. The political class often thinks in the short term and sees “easy money”, without seeing the future, when these “easy money” must be given back, with a lot of compromises and failures.
I think we need to think European. We are part of Europe and the European Union and we need to think about this scale. We need to understand that the European Union is not just about European money coming and then we see what we do with it, but about unity, stability, security. The EU is (will be) much more secure, stronger, more prosperous when Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia (North) and Albania become Member States. It will be even more complete culturally.
The EU will be much safer and more stable because it will strengthen its south-eastern flank, it will be more prosperous because this region, once established, will in turn generate prosperity, will be more united for that the place of Europeans is in the European Union. And it will be much more culturally complete because Serbs, Bosniaks, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Albanians are an integral part of European history and civilization.
After all, if we are Europeans and boast that we are Europeans, we need to look at the whole of Europe. Europe is not only in Dublin or Rome or Zagreb, but it is also beyond Zagreb: Belgrade, Sarajevo, Podgorica, Skopje and Tirana are also in Europe and their place is with us. (We haven’t discussed the Kosovo case here, which is complicated – but is it complicated? In the end, Kosovo’s place is still here in the EU. There’s no question about Turkey.) Read the full article and comment on Contributors. EN