European Stability Initiative - ESI - 21 February 2020, 02:10


13 January 2005

Member state building and the Helsinki moment

For South Eastern Europe, 2004 ended with a bang. The European Council in December took decisions that will have a huge impact on the future of Europe: to begin membership negotiations with Turkey and Croatia in 2005, and to prepare to accept Bulgaria and Romania as full members in 2007. These decisions make it possible to imagine a very different map of Europe in 2015.

This will further increase the importance of developments in Turkey for all of Europe. We are therefore extremely glad to be able to offer our readers the benefits of a partnership between the Turkish Policy Quarterly (TPQ) journal and ESI: from now on, some of the most interesting articles from the TPQ on Turkish economics, politics and security issues will also be available on our website. For any questions, please contact Nigar Göksel, ESI analyst and editor of the journal.

In the coming period, ESI's agenda will focus on analysing the policy implications for the region, and on the wider lessons for state building and development:

In addition to our work on EU policy and state building, we are continuing our field research in the Southern Balkans and in Central Anatolia, as well as our capacity building with young think-tanks in the region.

Best wishes for 2005,

Your ESI Team


Member state building and the Helsinki moment

The December 2004 EU Council vindicated the boldness shown by European leaders at the Helsinki summit in December 1999. Five years ago in Helsinki, EU leaders stated that "there are now 13 countries within a single framework of the accession process to the European Union… The candidate States are participating in the accession process on an equal footing." The decision to treat all 13 countries (including Turkey, which at the time did not meet the Copenhagen political criteria) as full CANDIDATES represented a turning point for each of the countries. It emboldened reformers, accelerated reforms and created the political space to address previously sensitive subjects. It seriously weakened anti-European and anti-democratic forces. From that point onwards, even as governments changed, policies remained remarkably consistent, driven by a shared vision of a common goal.

Helsinki sent a powerful political signal. It also brought to bear the sophisticated institution-building techniques developed by the Enlargement Directorate of the European Commission. This involved the creation of new institutions and the strengthening of existing ones (Francis Fukuyama's definition of "state building") on a large scale in each candidate country. It involved "screening" (making an X-ray of the state in each candidate country), hard-hitting annual progress reports taking the European acquis as a benchmark, and National Development Planning to buttress multi-annual public investment strategies. It also involved substantial pre-accession assistance for rural development, agriculture and infrastructure, and for the institution building needed to develop absorption capacity.

These are the instruments of European MEMBER-STATE BUILDING. And as Fukuyama notes in an article that appears this week in the Journal of Democracy, this EU accession process "has become perhaps the most successful exercise of soft power in the world today."

The big question for 2005 is: will European leaders show the same boldness and vision as they did five years ago for Central Europe, the Eastern Balkans and Turkey when it comes to the Western Balkans? Will the countries of the Western Balkans finally experience their own HELSINKI MOMENT?

The European Union has transferred responsibility for Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo to the new Finnish enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn. This is a very positive first step. The European Union has not yet decided, however, to offer Serbia or Macedonia what it has given to Turkey and Bulgaria: to treat these countries as EU candidates, and to apply all of its member-state building instruments. ESI argues that achieving candidate status before the end of 2006 should be the goal for the whole region.

This will involve changing some current policies. In its current proposal for the next seven year EU assistance budget (2007-2013), developed by the previous Commission, there is still a strict separation in the kinds of assistance offered to candidates (Turkey and Croatia) and to potential candidates (the rest of the region). Albania, Bosnia or Kosovo will not - as plans currently stand - be offered support for rural development, cohesion or human resource policies. Instead, they will continue to be treated by ad hoc mechanisms developed in a post-conflict era – which are no cheaper than pre-accession assistance.

If EU governments proceed to adopt this budget proposal later this year, it could have serious political and economic consequences. It would mean that all those living in rural areas in these countries, suffering from inadequate education and training systems, or from seriously deficient infrastructure, will see the development gap separating them from the rest of Europe (and from their immediate neighbours) grow wider. The desperation of the countryside and of declining industrial towns, whether in Sumadija or Presevo, Central Bosnia or Western Macedonia, would also continue to grow. The politically least stable part of the continent would fall further behind. A new European ghetto - comprising most of the Balkans' Albanians and Serbs, brought together behind a wall of visa-restrictions to block a desperate population from seeking work elsewhere - would arise in the heart of an integrating continent. Lasting stability would remain elusive.

To prevent the emergence of a West Balkan European ghetto by 1st January 2007, ESI proposes the following steps to EU leaders and institutions:


Gerald Knaus

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13 January 2005, 00:00