OPINION

Opinion

The prospect of EU accession and economic reconstruction as a counterweight to nationalist fever in the Balkans: This formula has been heard constantly since the Yugoslav crisis broke out in 1991… EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen’s recent remarks that Bulgaria and Romania will be excluded from the next wave of EU expansion foreshadows the marginalization of the Balkans in the post-Cold War international arena. Hence, the countries which were part of former Yugoslavia (except for Slovenia), Bulgaria, Romania and Albania will, in the coming years, make up a heterogeneous gray zone at the fringe of European integration. A few years ago, scenarios concerning a strong US interest in the region led many countries to believe that the cross-Atlantic alliance was the right answer to European indifference. Today, however, about a year after the warnings of Bush’s aides over the future pullout of American troops from the Balkans, it remains to be seen when and how the withdrawal will be implemented… The marginalization of the Balkans will be accompanied by the West’s limited interest in future intervention: In dealing with these conflicts – as seen during the FYROM crisis- the West will aim not at the protection of the status quo but at the prevention of even worse situations from emerging. The absence of an EU and NATO entry prospect coupled with belated economic and social reconstruction aid is inevitably fostering a trend toward economic and social destabilization in southeastern Europe. Curbing the phenomenon of illegal migration, however, requires broader political and economic measures. These should aim at strengthening Third World economies so that these countries can improve their current living standards. Furthermore, they should include long-term efforts to provide political acceptance of migrants, so that EU countries not only meet their labor needs but also legitimize the dreams of millions of would-be migrants.