The Balkans is a unique place with rich cultural and historical background, proud people and beautiful nature. After Croatia joined the EU, future enlargement of the Union toward the Balkan Peninsula seems just a matter of time. But how close is it actually?
Taking into consideration the historical patterns of the Balkans, we will see that one of the main fields that present a problem for the future EU enlargement are the nationalist issues within Balkan countries. Their histories are interwined, their languages are similar and there are minorities living from the neighboring nations in almost each one of them.
The legacy of history
The dream of certain political leaders for a united Balkan country has been present for time immemorial, but it never has come true. Joining the EU will be more or less a step towards this direction. The closest to the realization of the united country was the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which existed between 1943 and 1992. It included 23,724,919 people living on 255,804 sq.km. However, the characteristics of the different nations it tried to unify, altogether with the fall of the communism, played their role. The end of the federation was manifested in a violent way, with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which took place just 20 years ago.
Out of former Yugoslavia 7 new countries – Croatia, Slovenia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo - were formed. The first two are already part of the European Union and earlier this month it was announced that Serbia will begin its accession talks in January, 2014.
“We very often use the word 'historic' in an abusive manner, but this is historic. Let's not forget what happened not so long ago in that part of Europe, with one of the most violent wars we saw - and now we will start negotiations with Serbia", Barroso commented in Brussels.
Balkan countries on their way to accession
The announcement came after Serbia agreed to improve its relations with Kosovo. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia just 5 years ago and is still not recognized by all countries in the European community. Its population consists of 92% Albanians and 5,3% Serbians. Serbia wants a guarantee that its nationals will be treated fairly and is even ready to support them financially, because of the high unemployment rate in the newborn country.
Kosovo and Macedonia are also working on to reach accession negotiations. For a country, in to be able to begin its accession negotiations, all current members should provide their approval. Having in mind that Greece has claims against the name of Macedonia and the fact that Bulgaria will hardly ever appreciate the project Skopje 2014 which presents many Bulgarian history characters as Macedonians, this might take a while.
Undoubtedly, all countries from the region will benefit from an open market. The presence of more international companies is believed to be able to fight the chaos and corruption that emerged in the 90s. According to the 2013 Corruption Global Barometer the perception level of corruption has worsened around the Balkans with only Serbia improving its performance.
However, it is questionable whether the Balkan countries are ready to join a union which often goes beyond the powers of a trade-block, and whether they would only benefit from the membership and remain open for the time being or not.
The part of Europe with some of the most passionate, emotional and creative people will probably surprise the world once again.