Swallowing the Balkans
One advantage to having Romania and Bulgaria in the European Union, according to the European Commission, is that both countries will be able to help strengthen the EU’s foreign policy and security policy: Romania as a bridge to the east, and both as interfaces with the Balkan region.
That second point is particularly interesting given Europe’s history with the Balkans. Stratfor made this observation: “With Romania and Bulgaria joining the European Union … the Balkans are nearly surrounded by EU member countries, meaning the European Union will have to address rising tensions and instability in southeastern Europe” (Dec. 29, 2006).
Consider these “rising tensions.” Serbia, for example, stripped of its former republics and geopolitical relevance thanks to European intrusion, now stands at the threshold of a political revolution. When Serbia held its national parliamentary elections in January, the pro-West, pro-EU Democratic Party garnered enough votes to form a coalition government that excludes the Serbian Radicals. This gives Serbia the opportunity to pursue EU membership. EU officials said, shortly after the election, that Belgrade “could begin accession talks as soon as” the coalition government was formed. Those were the words of Erhard Busek, spokesman for the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, stating that Serbia had a better chance than Turkey of gaining EU membership (EUbusiness.com, January 23).
Also, with the Serbian Radicals sidelined—a party opposing the independence of Kosovo—the barriers to Kosovo breaking away have fallen. This makes way for the EU to cement its hold on Kosovo. It is now planning to have its police force take over security operations from NATO troops. This will be the EU’s biggest security operation ever in Kosovo, involving not only policing, but also institution building.
Meanwhile, in Bosnia, the United Nations is supposed to hand power over to the national government this spring, when European forces are set to withdraw from the country. No one quite knows how successfully the deadlocked government (split among Muslims, Croats, Serbs) will function on its own.
Added to that is the possible energy crisis into which the EU has purposefully plunged the Balkans. To be an EU member, Bulgaria—the Balkans’ biggest electricity supplier—had to shut down two functional nuclear reactors that violated the EU’s strict safety regulations. This means Sofia will lose up to _‚_10 billion in export revenues and face possible increases in energy imports and shut-down costs; at the same time, electricity may become more scarce and costlier. It will “destroy the delicate energy balance in a region that continues to be economically and politically unstable” (Deutsche Welle, Dec. 28, 2006).
But have no fear. Europe is poised to address these “rising tensions.”
The EU’s increased presence in the Balkans through Romania’s and Bulgaria’s accessions has coincided with Germany’s six-month presidency of the EU. Stratfor asserts, “Whether or not Germany likes it, these Balkan issues have fallen in its lap. Keeping the Balkans from returning to its previous chaos, then, could become Germany’s unintended presidential legacy” (op. cit., emphasis ours).
Unintended? Hardly. Germany and the Vatican were at the helm of slicing and dicing the Balkans in the first place. Back when Germany stood firm in recognizing Croatia and Slovenia, the New York Times said the incident “underscored Germany’s growing political power within the 12-nation European Community” and that “it marked the single most visible demonstration of that power since reunification of the two Germanys …” (Dec. 16, 1991). In his booklet The Rising Beast, editor in chief Gerald Flurry called Yugoslavia the first victim of World War III, just as Czechoslovakia was the first of the Second World War.
As Stratfor maintained only a few years back, “Germany is seeking to reassert itself at the center of Europe, and the Balkans play a big part in that strategy. It is an area where Germany can expand its military reach without frightening either itself or its neighbors. Berlin also would like to build on its ties with Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Bulgaria to pull both southern and Eastern Europe under its wing as the EU expands” (March 6, 2002).
How interesting is the timing of Germany’s presidency, along with the accession of two large Balkan countries, while the former Yugoslav republics stand at political crossroads. It won’t be long before these countries, now surrounded by the EU—and essentially vassal states of it—join a united Europe.