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The Impact of Enlargement on Russia and the Balkans

The expansion of the EU to include ten new members — many of them former parts of the Soviet empire — represents a geopolitical upheaval for the Balkan region and its largely Eastern-rite cultures. At the same time, a larger Europe will undoubtedly see its relations with Russia change. Jacques Rupnik, a senior scientist at the Fondation Nationale de Sciences Politiques and a member of the research center CERI1, takes stock of the situation.

Is there a sense that the enlargement of Europe is leaving Europe of the Balkans by the wayside?
Jacques Rupnik:
In a certain way of looking at things, this is exactly right. Bulgaria and Romania are the only nations with any chance of qualifying for inclusion by 2007. Much depends on how the “assimilation” by the EU of the ten candidate countries (the Baltic nations, central and eastern European nations, Cyprus, and Malta) transpires; the others' entry could well be put off longer. For the others it is a matter of meeting the membership criteria laid out in Copenhagen in 1993. These include democratic standards, market economy targets, and the adoption of the Community acquis and the capacity to enforce them. At present, the Balkan countries are a long way off by this way of measuring.

A long way off, really?
J.R. In fact, we need to distinguish three groups. The first group is Romania and Bulgaria, two countries that are on the right path but simply not as far along on the timescale toward inclusion in the EU because the transition to democratic rule was more difficult and their economies are not as high-performing as those of central and eastern Europe.
The second group is composed of the countries of ex-Yugoslavia (Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro), where the war greatly hindered any democratic transition and constituted a huge handicap starting out, even if Croatia is doing better than Serbia.
Finally, the third group comprised the “European Balkan protectorates”, as are called Bosnia, Kosovo, and to a certain degree, Macedonia. These are protectorates in the sense that political order and public safety are imposed by military intervention (NATO troops) and the existing political institutions were delivered already assembled by the international community. These institutions are headed by veritable “proconsuls”2.

When you speak of protectorates, do you mean to say these areas will never enter the EU?
J.R. It's too soon to say. In some ways these protectorates represent another form of EU integration — it's worthy of note that Kosovo and Macedonia already use the euro which will not be the case in the Czech Republic at first. But this form of integration requires more commitment on the part of the EU and it is much more costly. It is integration forced by the war. Europe's role and presence in these areas is that of “a substitute empire” or “a non-conquering empire”, a “reticent empire”.

As far as Russia is concerned, how much room to manoeuvre does it have?
J.R. The situation there has changed a great deal since September 11, 2001. Up until that point Russia had worked out a partnership with European countries whereby it got what it could with its limited resources on a case-by-case basis. Since that date, it has become a strategic partner of the US in its war on terrorism. This return of Russia to the international scene has scrambled its relationship with Europe.

What are the sticking points?
J.R. First of all, the enlargement of the EU to included the Baltic States raises once again the problem of the rights of Russophone minorities in these countries as well as the question of the Kaliningrad enclave. If solutions are being worked out, Europe's fears are no less real concerning Kaliningrad; are the Russians thinking of transforming it into something other than a military base, such as a free trade and trafficking zone? The answer is to be found in Moscow, not Brussels.
Next comes the question of the eastern boundaries of Europe. Belarus and especially the Ukraine will be of major strategic importance in the future. Take the interesting case of the Ukraine, a country tugged on the west by an orthodox-rite Catholic population speaking a non-Russian language, and on the East by 12 million Russians. At present the Ukraine is not ready for EU membership due to human rights questions and economic dependency on Russia. But its future moves in Europe's direction will depend on the will of the Russian state. Russia for its part must decide if it wants to be an empire or a democracy. As long as it continues to exercise a strong influence on the future of the Ukraine it is acting as an empire, a role not commensurate with a democratic nation. If it decides to become a democracy, it must allow the Ukraine to makes its own choices, including possible membership in the EU.

Is it imaginable that Russia simply joins the European Union?
J.R. Due to its size and its Eurasian character Russia cannot plausibly be considered as a potential member, but should be seen as a “partner”. First of all it is hard to imagine Russia with its particular notion of the State agreeing to an arrangement involving a willing loss of sovereignty. Secondly, in geographic terms Russian membership would be a case of peripheral stability through connection with the center, but Russia sees itself as a center in the full meaning of the term. One factor that might lead to Russia entering the EU would be Turkey's membership. But by the same token, that would also be the end of Europe as we recognise it today.




Jacques Rupnik

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