Ms Mogherini has returned highly frustrated from her Balkans trip. It is a fact that the European Union is no longer a serious partner in the enlargement process. We have withdrawn from the Balkans according to all the facts, while we look at the consequences of this position of ours. There are two countries there on the edge of dissolution, while four other countries are in a deep political crisis. This is because we as EU don’t fulfill our role there.
This is the alarm giving off by the Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs Miroslav Lajčák before the meeting of the Foreign Council of the EU. An alarm that was accompanied, after the meeting, with an observation about the crisis in Macedonia. Asked about the common platform of the Albanian parties which was launched in Tirana, Lajčák answered:
It is unusual and regrettable that a country has external interference in internal processes. The formation of the government is truly a process that needs to be in the hands of local politicians. So it’s a factor that is an additional complication.
Even though for Albanians the second declaration seems to be more valuable, Lajčák first comment, in fact, should worry us more. It is a worry for Albanians in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. Why is Lajčák’s declaration an alarm bell, and what is its context?
When Lajčák states that there are two country on the verge of dissolution, he refers to Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina. The others that are in a deep political crisis are Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia. Those four are in a deep political crisis and desperately seek a solution. Lajčák’s observation doesn’t only show the difficult situation in the Balkans, but also the reason why it has ended up like this.
Until today, the developments in the Balkans have been supervised by the US, with a primary role of the EU. The US and the EU have coordinated nearly 20 years of developments here. Since the war in Bosnia, the American presence have become more pronounced, pulling the brakes on the political adventurism that is a not uncommon product of this region. But in recent years, and especially in the recent months, the US’s attention toward the Balkans has become more limited.
The Trump administration remains incomplete in terms of its representation. At the State Department the new directors that are responsible for the region still haven’t been nominated, but what is even worse, it is still unclear what the US policy in the region will be. In other words, it is not clear whether the the US will strongly agree with the EU, or whether there will be an alternative in the form of an agreement with Russia to divide the zones of influence.
In this context, the EU has been waiting for a signal from the US, a signal that yet has to arrive. But in the Balkans, including in Albania where the crisis is taking place right across from the Prime Ministry on the Boulevard, we are also waiting for a signal, from the EU. And in absence of that signal, some of the contestant are waiting for the American developments with the conviction that the Trump administration will produce a policy that is different from the one produced by his predecessor Obama.
It is unclear how realistic this analysis is, but one thing is certain. The unclarity of the US has blocked the EU and this is the reason that Lajčák called Mogherini’s trip frustrating.
The EU has not managed to take a leadership role on its own in the Balkans. It cannot confront Russia’s pressure alone and in this case help of and coordination with the US is essential. Perhaps during the NATO summit in May we will have a more clear position of the US, but until the Balkans will continue to languish in the same crisis, a crisis produced by the inability of the EU to decide on its further steps in the region!