The Balkans' EU aspirations: inclusion, exclusion and faith
A major factor affecting all communications in the Balkans region is the EU integration process, which is currently perceived as the future settlement in a space where administrative and political divisions are no more significant neither have substantial influence, above all communications and exchanges give a totally different meaning to all differences including the cultural aspect.
The past ten years of multifaceted developments in the area related with EU integration process are valid accomplishments to be recognized. This is due to the different cause - effect connections that have developed and the various Balkan countries engulfed by diverse shapes of developments; once again these are genuine indicators that demonstrate the effects played by cultural and religious differences towards a positive or negative impact destined to the inclusion or exclusion of each Balkan country in their respective integration aspirations.
Generally speaking, referring to overall processes and stability, the fact is that in 2009 EU Commission abolished the entry visa to Schengen agreement countries for the citizens of Montenegro, Serbia and FYROM (Macedonia), a testimony that shows a clear attention of the European Union towards the Region by qualifying the afore mentioned counties with a “satisfying level of stability” contrary to their previous status of “Settling down,” in early 1990s.
At this initial visa liberalization process, Albania and Bosnia where not included by the European Union, a discriminatory action taken against these two countries that were theoretically considered as fragile democracies and unstable. Other European public officials went further and consider EU’s action as a kind of exclusion and excessive prudence from EU towards two countries characterized by a Muslim majority in their population.
The situation was over in 2010 and EU authorities stressed a lot to the fact that all this came due to a satisfactory level of fulfillments of required standards to achieve such status from those countries.
But the situation and sentiments towards EU integration is not homogeneous in all Balkan area.
The unresolved conflicts among countries brought into evidence the fact that national issues often distort the common future vision as well as bring into stage old patterns of communication characterized by underlined cultural and religious differences such as the cases of Slovenia vs. Croatia and Greece vs. FYROM. And there are populations waiting to see their dreams and aspirations come true due to such situations, and the more affected are those who are considered to be minorities in relation to the predominant population in the respective countries.
In all cases the risk of marginalization brings extremism in these countries, in some cases as a reaction, as well as it can create a fertile environment fostering conflict.
The fact is that most of communities characterized and affected by such conflicts and disputes is of Muslim religion, from one side incense some asleep religious issues by increasing the risk of going back to attach national identity with religion, and in the other side it can contribute to the creation of a wrong perception that Islam and extremism can be connected to the area.
In some cases, different from other European countries, in the Balkan countries, religious groups evolved in creating their political parties. Geopolitics as well as political games are always present in the area by making the Balkans be always a king of endurance test or passing the obstacles. It seems in many cases that the enforced EU standards to be fulfilled by these countries in order to fully integrate themselves in the European Family are not the problem; instead it is a continuous effort for all Balkan countries to set up and maintain such an integration perception for their future.
Taking in consideration the recent past of these countries, which in many cases have been jumping into different phases of the western civilized societies’ development, coming out from long periods of economic under development and having little experiences of living in democracy, they definitely need a tangible flavor and real benefits in order to maintain and strengthen their EU integration posture; they will, overcoming national divisions, by trying to reach the best benefit possible from collaboration, exchange and communication in the Euro zone as well as in the Intermarium.
A valid question is that how much the Balkan countries are willing to do so. The South East European Countries’ picture today is totally different from that of 20 years ago. It is definitely different from what it was fifty or a hundred years ago. But these time period have charged a heavy heritage in the Balkan population which demonstrated themselves in the creation and proclamation of national identities of those countries. Actually, these national values will be the driving force in creating and maintaining an identity. The vision of a common future in EU integration and generating an added value under EU’s shelter is a strong drive, as it is a strong argument in the expression of a national identity under the frame of a common system of values.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.
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