chapter  8
20 Pages

The European Union in search of Balkan answers

The European Union emerged from the Cold War as a force that seemed capable of reinforcing peace and security in a continent that had witnessed the deadliest violence seen anywhere on the planet during the twentieth century. But it sunk into introspection when faced with a challenge from ethno-nationalist forces in the Balkans. During the 1991-5 wars in parts of the former Yugoslavia, major West European states had largely recoiled from the problems of the region. The European Union had acquired a foreign policy arm at the 1991 Maastricht Summit but there was not the common ground required to take purposeful initiatives in the Balkan region, either in states that had remained at peace (the majority) or new states (Croatia and Bosnia) and disputed territories (Kosovo) caught up in conflict. But from the late 1990s the European Union acquired far greater visibility in the Balkans. There was a belated consensus that the region could not be ring fenced from the rest of Europe and debased political standards more reminiscent of Europe from 1933 to 1945 be allowed to prevail. After equivocating during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia when it singled out as a key negotiating partner Serbia’s Slobodan Milomevi|, widely viewed as the chief architect of the post-1991 conflicts in Yugoslavia, the European Union adopted a fresh approach. It actively intervened in the escalating confrontation between Milomevi| and most of Serbia on the one hand and the Albanian population of Kosovo on the other that rejected Serbian overlordship. Belgrade was warned that forced transfer of populations and warfare mainly directed against civilians would no longer be tolerated. Not only was it morally repugnant but the resultant upheavals also undermined the security of West European states. In 1999, the European Union showed impressive solidarity with NATO when it militarily confronted Milomevi| over the skies of Kosovo and Serbia. The solidarity showed no signs of cracking despite the ill-planned and sometimes insensitively conducted operation. Afterwards, a sign of the good relations between two multilateral entities sometimes viewed as rivals was the transfer of Javier Solana from his post as NATO Secretary-General to a new post as the EU’s High Commissioner for Security. The holder was meant to coordinate the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.