See here an astute comment from Slovenia at the occasion of the announcement of a ‘mini-Schengen’ for EU-hopeful Serbia and Albania (not Kosovo!) and North Macedonia still not admitted even to the waiting room of candidate status. Commentators from Bulgaria and Italy also agree: a ‘Balkan alliance’ outside the EU is in the making. Blame it on delays in membership negotiations, broken promises and growing disillusion, but Dnevnik, a daily from Ljubljana argues the EU itself is splitting up. My own gloss on the matter is that the EU is pursuing the scenario of a ‘multi-speed Europe which allegedly had the backing of then Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker . (https://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/junckers-real-scenario-is-multi-speed-europe/)
Indeed, a multi-speed Europe is not only ‘…already a reality, it is also the most promising way for Europe to move forward’, says Jacqueline Sirotová. (https://www.globsec.org/publications/is-europes-future-multi-speed-today-seems-like-nothing-but-schengen-type-of-cooperation-matters/) In parentheses: why is it that the names of so many interesting commentators on matters European seem to suggest the authors’ roots to be in a Central and Eastern Europe?
However, suggesting as it does an end-state only to be achieved at different dates, a multi-speed EU is maybe still too optimistic a scenario. From its vantage point as the linch pin between Central Europe and the Balkans, Slovenia has once been the Crown Land of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Krain. That was until it joined the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918. After which Slovenia was the first to split after a brief shooting war during the breakup of what in the meantime had become the post-Tito Yugoslavia. (Born to a Slovene mother and a Croatian father, Tito himself had once been the youngest sergeant major in the army of Austria-Hungary.)
Slovenes thus occupy a unique vantage point from where to observe what to Northern Europeans seems a wild, unruly and dangerous part of the world. Even if their governments might appreciate the danger of the Western Balkan attracting interest from the likes of Russia, China and the former imperial master of the Balkans, Turkey (perhaps with money from the Gulf thrown into the bargain), electorates do not. So, which elected leader dares to say that it is in our best interest to close this hole in the body of the EU? Supporting Schengen and Euroland member Greece, quite likely necessary to maintain the Euro, has already been bad enough…
No way of denying, there are huge, maybe unsurmountable differences. But we had better heed Dnevnik’s other warning that theofficial EU itself has begun to split into ‘…a Bulgarian-Romanian EU and a German EU. In addition, the Visegrád Union comprising Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary was formed to the west of Serbia. A union with its own values, different from those of Brussels, and which does not recognise all European laws and courts. … In the West, the old EU countries are gradually building up their Northern Europe and only think of the South in the holidays. … The European Union seemed eternal. But then it turned out that it was just as temporary as all other forms of aggregation.’ (https://www.eurotopics.net/en/265486/western-balkans-promoting-own-schengen?zitat=265447#zitat265447)
True, but, having lasted for a tad more than 1000 years, the Holy Roman Empire would be good enough for me as a model to aspire to. The EU would only have to be more tolerant of diversity even than it is. And, rather than aspiring to a definite order as if it were an aspiring state, we would have to accept that its unity is, and remains a matter of continuous debate. So, concerning the Western Balkans where nation states have not yet fully crystallised, I myself have for instance ventured once to propose that, rather than putting them at the back of the queue until they have become nation states proper, we should appreciate the Western Balkans as an experimental field for flexible responses to situations on the ground. The conclusions of that paper still stand:
‘The model (of neatly formed nation states with coherent territories and the homes each of clearly identifiable nations) never really fitted the situation in Europe anyway, leading to much needless (and senseless!) conflict, not only in the Western Balkans, but throughout the continent and beyond.’ (Faludi 2020, 23)
Faludi, A. (2020) ‘Policy debate: Government and governance on the Western Balkans’, Journal of Western Balkan Network on Territorial Governance: Annual Review of Territorial Governance in the Western Balkans, II, 2020, 19-23. ISSN 2707-9384.
The illustration shows the cover of the Annual Review of Territorial Governance in the Western Balkans, II, 2020.