101 On the French Veto, Balkan accession and what next

Dear friends, in October the European Council refused to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Here is an attempt to illustrate what happened, what France would like to happen now and what should happen.

Interview in NOVA TV, “Кнаус за НОВА: Европска економска зона е подобро од овa статус кво” (“Knaus in conversation with NOVA: The European Economic Area is better than the status quo”)

NOVA TV, “Кнаус за НОВА: Европска економска зона е подобро од овa статус кво” – interview with Gerald Knaus – (“Knaus in conversation with NOVA: The European Economic Area is better than the status quo”) (26 October 2019)

Radical realism – to transform the world, lets take its measure first. Why joining the European single market and the four freedoms would be a huge step forward for all Western Balkan nations.

And why the EU should offer this to all six, with a reformed accession methodology that truly rewards merit. This will be very hard work. But with this EU integration would finally get serious for the region.

Q: Will the ESI Norway in the Balkans proposal mark the end of enlargement ?

Knaus: It is the opposite: with this proposal the European integration of the Balkan countries would accelerate. We are proposing that the European Union opens accession talks with all six Western Balkan countries now to join the European single market, the biggest in the world, with its four freedoms of movement of people, capital, goods and services. And we propose to reform the way these talks take place, to make them fair and transformative.

The immediate goal is for each Balkan country that meets the conditions to be linked as closely to the EU as Norway is in the so-called European Economic Area (EEA). Now, joining the EEA is in itself a very good thing. Norway, a rich country, is still paying the EU a lot to be in the EEA, because it is such an advantage for its people and economy, Of course, the Western Balkans are not rich and need help to catch up, so the EU should increase grants and assistance AND allow them to join the single market in order. Why? Because a stable, democratic, prosperous Balkans is in the EU interest.

Now, North Macedonia citizens might say that they want to join the EU, nothing else. But even then our proposal is good for them. How does EEA accession relate to the goal of EU accession? If you think of joining the EU as a marathon, over 42 km, joining the EEA is running the first 35 km of that very same marathon, on exactly the same road. It is not a detour, it is not an alternative, is is a stage on the same path.

This is not just my theory. This is how it worked in the past. I was young then, but remember well: this is how Austrian, Finland and Sweden joined the European Union more than twenty years ago. All three joined the EEA first. Then, since everything they needed to do for the EEA was also a requirement for the EU, they completed EU accession talks within a very short period of time. To be precise: the EEA entered into force in 1994 and Austria, Sweden and Finland joined the EU on 1 January 1995. This is important: there is no contradiction between the goal of first joining the EEA and then the EU. On the contrary, it is a logical sequence. All EEA negotiators at the time noted how these talks made later fast accession of their countries possible.

Q: what about the commitment of the EU from Zagreb 2000 and Thessaloniki 2003 ? Could we just forgot it?

These commitments remain, of course. At the same time we know that these promises, repeated every year over twenty years, never guaranteed WHEN enlargement would actually happen. Nobody can guarantee this. Every EU member states always kept the right to veto. And they used it. How many times was North Macedonia blocked by a veto of one member state, despite unconditional recommendations by the European Commission to start talks? Nine times! Nobody knows from bitter experience better than Macedonians that the most important thing is a process which is about merit and not arbitrary vetoes, at every step.

So my advice to Balkan leaders is to focus all diplomatic energy on changing the process, not demanding guarantees that can never be given. We do not know now who the French president will be in 2024. Right now there is a lot of sympathy with North Macedonia and Albania in many EU states. This sympathy should help push for a reformed process. If the process is not reformed, what would happen even when you have to open the first chapters? Again, you know: Croatia experienced it, Turkey did.

How likely is it to reform the process in this way? It is hard, too. But if ever there was a moment to do it it is now. There is a new Commission. There is a deep crisis. So this is the moment to put a constructive proposal on the table that can convince all EU members and work for the Balkans for the next years, not just the next months. The key question is not whether talks today will lead to a Norwegian situation of joining the EEA or to a Swedish situation of joining, first the EEA and then the EU. This will be decided later in any case. What is key now is that these talks are fair.

Q: How to explain to Montenegro and Serbia that the game is over?

Knaus: The current accession process has been broken for years. Many Member states don’t believe in it. Frontrunners, like Turkey and Serbia, don’t believe in it any more. What happened to North Macedonia in Brussels confirmed this.Note: Turkey has been negotiating its accession since 2005, Montenegro since 2012, Serbia since 2014. But did opening accession talks process produce the positive changes which were expected? No. Are these countries closer to joining the EU now than they were when they started? No. Turkey has since had a coup attempt. a state of emergency, fighting broke out again in South East Anatolia. And last year in Sofia EU member states refused to give even a vague commitment that 2025 was a good target date for Serbia and Montenegro to join. Nobody has any guarantee, whether talks started or not.

So the process itself must be changed. I feared in a speech in 2014 in Belgrade at an event with the deputy prime minister of Serbia that the current accession process would not survive for more than five years without reform. This was five years ago.

Q: Negotiations for membership was a very efficient instrument for the transformation and reform . what could be the carrot now?

Knaus: Negotiations for membership are only an efficient instrument for transformation when EU is serious about it. The EU has not been serious about the negotiations with the Western Balkan countries. It is not prepared to open them with four out of six. Why? Because accession of the Western Balkan countries is unpopular in many EU members. So a process was designed with so many obstacles that it kills the motivation of even the most committed politicians or civil servant. You can have a hurdles race over over 200 meters. You cannot have a hurdles race over 42 kilometers. This is what the current process has become. This is what your government has experienced too. That is bad for the EU and bad for the Balkans.

The question of incentives is crucial. The first incentive, the major carrot, is that the process helps reformers create a better country for their citizens and children. For this, it must be fair. For citizens it must be transparent. The EU should provide real help reaching Eu standards, not block countries. And each Balkan country should be judged by the same criteria. If more assistance then goes to those counties that perform best, all the better. But you cannot buy the will to reform with money. Yes, money helps. Having a goal that is within reach of a few years helps too. Having EU member states that want you to reach it, not block you, is also crucial.

Q: How would the process of negotiation look like ?

Knaus: There is a website where you can see what the EAA covers. It is a huge part of the EU rules and laws. Reaching this integration now should be the first objective goal for each of the six WB countries. The EU should draw up roadmaps for each area. and then evaluate regularly how far each of the six Balkan countries are from meeting these criteria in each field. These assessments should be led by experts, the criteria public, allowing you to compare countries. There should be a positive competition. And no vetoes once the whole process starts next year until the very end.

Q: What is the potential risk for stability if there is no more enlargement ?

Knaus: Many in the EU fear that Balkan countries are not stable and might return to chaos at any moment. This is a very bad image to have. I would never use fear of instability as an argument for enlargement. On the other hand, the goal of eternal European peace is a great and inspiring goal for the EU and the Balkans. I lived in the Balkans in the 1990s, in Sarajevo, in Pristina, and remember well a period when nationalists first won elections with promises of hate, and then wars and destruction followed. This must never happen again in the Balkans. But it continues to happen, even in Europe, even today. In 2008 there was a war in Georgia. In 2014 in Ukraine. This is why we need European integration, not just in the Balkans, but also in the Balkans.

Q: ESI has put lot of effort in order to promote enlargement of EU towards WB. How you are going to ensure your partners in the WB that it was just a “joke” talking about enlargement?

Knaus: We put a lot of effort into convincing EU interior ministers into lifting the visa requirements for all Western Balkan countries first. And it succeeded. Why? Because it was a merit based credible process. And because we talked to the sceptics, and tried to persuade the ministers of interior in EU member states. This is the only way this can work, and it means that right now we need to talk to France and the Netherlands, to see how to convince them. And to show them that a credible process of accession can be in their interest, too.

Q: Why don’t you join the huge majority of member states and WB countries to find a solution in order to change Macron s mind?

Knaus: I simply ask: do you think it is likely that other member states will be able to change the mind of the French president? It might happen. I hope it does. But it never happened with Greece. So you need a strategy that also works without it happening. And that makes future vetoes in the process less likely. This is how European integration has always happened. It is not new.

Q: Do you believe that there is anything that could satisfy Macron in order to leave his veto on enlargement ?

Knaus: He says the EU is not now ready to promise enlargement to anyone. But the EU should be ready to allow each Western Balkan state to meet the conditions to join the EEA. I think to persuade France of this is possible, if other EU members support it too.

Q: Is there any other member state supporting your ideas ? If yes..which one?

Knaus: We only published this paper last Friday night. But there has been a strong and encouraging response. I received emails and SMS from foreign ministers, parliamentarians and EU officials within hours, expressing interest. But I have no illusions. This would be a historic offer, that would transform the Balkans. But it will take a lot of discussions. Like visa liberalisation. And it will only work if leaders in the region support it too. Not as their ideal scenario, but as a very good way forward for their countries, much better than the status quo.

Interview – Merkel-Samsom plan in German papers

Main-Post, Michael Pohl, “Ist dieser Mann Angela Merkels Rettung?” (“Is this man Angela Merkel’s last resort?”) (17 February 2016)

Herr Knaus, Sie haben mit Ihrer Denkfabrik „Europäische Stabilitäts-Initiative“ schon wenige Wochen nach der deutschen Grenzöffnung einen detaillierten Plan vorgelegt, wie die Flüchtlingskrise entschärft werden könnte. Inzwischen gelten Ihre Ideen als Vorlage für Angela Merkels jetzigen Versuch, den Flüchtlingszustrom auf der Balkanroute aufzuhalten. Viele sprechen bereits von der letzten Chance der Kanzlerin. Sind Sie der Drehbuchautor für Merkels Flüchtlingspolitik?

Gerald Knaus: Ich hoffe es. Wir haben unseren Plan in den vergangenen Monaten vielen Regierungen in ganz Europa präsentiert und uns kritischen Fragen gestellt. Seitdem sind wir mehr denn je von unserem Plan überzeugt. Mitte September haben wir das erste Mal geschrieben, dass in der Flüchtlingskrise nur ein Ausweg gefunden werden kann, wenn es eine Lösung zwischen Deutschland, der Türkei und Griechenland gibt. Denn nicht nur in Deutschland hat die Bevölkerung hat Angst davor bekommen, dass die Politik die Kontrolle verloren hat. Unser Plan ist der beste Weg, um die unkontrollierte Zuwanderung der Flüchtlinge unter eine Kontrolle zu bringen und gleichzeitig das Flüchtlingsrecht in Europa zu bewahren. Denn all jene Populisten, die von Victor Orban angeführt werden, würden das Asylrecht am liebsten abschaffen.AZ_17_2_2016_cut_590px

Was ist der Kern Ihrer Idee?

Knaus: Für Griechenland und für Europa gibt es faktisch keine Möglichkeit, Flüchtlingsboote auf dem offenen Meer zu stoppen. Die Idee, dass die Griechen ihre Marine einsetzen und die Grenze in der Ägäis dichtmachen könnten, ist absurd und nicht umsetzbar. Die einzige Möglichkeit, die lebensgefährliche Flucht über das Mittelmeer zu unterbinden, liegt in einer Zusammenarbeit von Griechenland und der Türkei. Die wird es aber nur geben, wenn eine Gruppe europäischer Staaten, angeführt von Deutschland, der Türkei ein seriöses Angebot macht, die Verantwortung für diese gewaltige Zahl von Flüchtlingen im Land auf geordnete Art und Weise zu teilen. Die Lösung besteht deshalb darin, der Türkei mit der Übernahme von Flüchtlingen in großzügigen Kontingenten zu helfen.

Sie haben bereits im September dafür den Begriff der „Koalition der Willigen“ erfunden und haben das Scheitern der damals von Merkel geplanten gesamteuropäischen Lösung vorhergesagt. Jetzt fordert auch die Kanzlerin Kontingent-Lösungen und spricht von einer Koalition der Willigen, wie in Ihrem Plan. Wie sehen Sie die Chancen, dass er umgesetzt wird?

Knaus: In den vergangenen Wochen sind sehr viele Dinge in dies Richtung passiert. Die niederländische EU-Präsidentschaft macht sich sehr stark für die Grundelemente unseres Plans. In Brüssel wird erkannt, dass man auf die Türkei mehr zugehen muss. Am Donnerstag wollen die Länder der Koalition der Willigen mit dem türkischen Ministerpräsidenten verhandeln, wie man die Umsiedlung von syrischen Flüchtlingen aus der Türkei beginnen kann. Griechenland hat beschlossen, die Türkei zu sicheren Drittstaat zu erklären, damit man Flüchtlinge wieder dorthin zurückschicken kann. Schritt für Schritt werden alle Punkte, die wir vorgeschlagen langsam umgesetzt. Das stimmt mich optimistisch, dass wir vielleicht in den nächsten Wochen einen Wendepunkt in der Flüchtlingskrise sehen.

Glauben Sie wirklich, dass sich dadurch die Menschen von einer Flucht nach Europa über abhalten lassen?

Knaus: Ja. Wenn Griechenland Insel für Insel beginnt, die ankommenden Flüchtlinge in die Türkei zurückzuschicken, dann werden die Menschen nicht mehr ihr Leben riskieren, weil die gefährliche Flucht über das Meer sinnlos wird. So rettet man Menschenleben und zerstört das Schmugglerwesen. Und man erhält zugleich geordnete Prozesse: Die Deutschen wären in der Lage, von jedem Flüchtling der aus der Türkei übernommen werden soll, die Fingerabdrücke zu überprüfen. Man wüsste, dass sind keine IS-Terroristen und könnte ganze Familien aufnehmen, damit sich auch die Frage des Familiennachzugs nicht mehr stellt. Das alles wird gerade zwischen Deutschland und der Türkei verhandelt. Die Umsetzung könnte in wenigen Wochen beginnen.

Wird es nicht dramatische Bilder geben, wie sie einst in Ungarn die Krise mitausgelöst haben, wenn Griechenland die Flüchtlinge in die Türkei zurückschaffen will?

Knaus: Zunächst einmal muss die Übernahme von Flüchtlingen aus der Türkei durch die Koalition der Willigen der allererste Schritt sein. Es ist nicht nur als Signal an die Türkei wichtig, dass es Deutschland und die anderen Länder tatsächlich ernst meinen. Das ist natürlich ein Signal an die syrischen Flüchtlinge, dass sie weiter die Chance auf Asyl haben. In Griechenland kann man leicht unterbinden, dass Flüchtlinge von Inseln wie Lesbos mit der Fähre auf das Festland übersetzen. Wenn man das klug organisiert, und nicht dilettantisch wie in Budapest, kann man vielleicht unschöne Bilder vermeiden. Aber letztlich ist die Rückführung unvermeidlich, wenn man die Grenze schützen will.

Warum soll die Türkei ausgerechnet die Flüchtlinge behalten wollen, die Europa nicht will?

Knaus: Viele kommen in die Türkei, weil sie die Bilder sehen, dass derzeit die einmalige Chance besteht mit relativ geringem Risiko nach Deutschland oder Schweden zu kommen. Das führt dazu, dass sich immer mehr Nordafrikaner und Menschen aus Zentralasien auf den Weg machen. Dieser Strom ist schlecht für die Türkei, weil dort die Kriminalität in Form von Menschenschmuggel wächst. Deshalb muss das Signal um die Welt gehen, dass die für jeden offene Autobahn nach Europa über die Ägäis geschlossen ist.

Wie verlässlich ist die Türkei? Das Land hat den Flüchtlingsstrom bislang an seinen Grenzen nicht aufgehalten…

Knaus: Die Vorstellung, die türkische Küstenwache oder die Armee könnte die gesamte hunderte Kilometer lange Ägäis-Küste abriegeln, war von Anfang an absurd. Da gibt es unzählige Inseln und Tourismusgebiete, da kann nicht das Militär aufmarschieren. Und wenn man Flüchtlinge erwischt und ein paar hundert Kilometer landeinwärts aussetzt, sind sie eine Woche später wieder an der Küste. Wer nur einen Tag vor Ort in der Türkei verbracht hat, kann bestätigen, dass die türkische Küstenwache hier eine Sisyphosarbeit verrichtet. Der Türkei ist es mit enormen Aufwand gelungen, die Landgrenze zu Griechenland zu schützen. An der Küste uns auf dem Meer geht das nicht.

Die osteuropäischen Länder wollen die Grenze von Mazedonien schließen, in der Hoffnung, dass die Flüchtlinge dann aufgeben, nach Griechenland zu fliehen.

Knaus: Es ist eine Illusion zu glauben, man könnte einen neuen eisernen Vorhang bauen mit Mazedonien als Vorposten in einer Reihe von Zäunen. Für jeden, der den Balkan kennt, ist das eine absurde Idee. Ich habe zehn Jahre auf dem Balkan gelebt und gearbeitet. Nirgendwo gibt es so viel Expertise im Schmuggeln. Glaubt jemand ernsthaft, ein paar unterbezahlte Polizisten könnten die Berge des Balkans kontrollieren? Ganz abgesehen davon, dass Europa Griechenland völlig im Stich lassen würde.

Viele fordern mehr Druck auf Griechenland, dass bisher seine Verpflichtungen kaum erfüllt …

Knaus: Der Plan der Umsiedlung von Flüchtlingen aus sogenannten „Hots-Spots“ in Griechenland, an dem die EU-Kommission seit Monaten festhält, funktioniert nicht und ist nur kontraproduktiv. Er animiert nur die Flüchtlinge ihr Geld Schleppern zu geben für eine lebensgefährliche Flucht über die Ägäis. Es ist besser diese Flüchtlinge aus der Türkei zu holen, wo sie ja in diesem Moment auch sind.

Aber große Teile der Bevölkerung der Aufnahmeländer wie Deutschland sehen die Belastungsgrenzen schon erreicht…

Knaus: Ich glaube, dass die Mehrheit in Deutschland und auch in anderen Ländern eine Unterscheidung macht und bereit ist, die Menschen aufzunehmen, die vom Syrienkrieg fliehen – der größten humanitären Katastrophe unserer Zeit. Die Bevölkerung hat aber gleichzeitig Angst, dass die offenen Grenzen ohne jede Kontrolle, dazu führen, dass eben sehr viele Menschen kommen, die nicht Flüchtlinge sind.

Viele halten Ihren Plan für Angela Merkels letzte Rettung. Glauben Sie, dass der Kanzlerin die Umsetzung gegen all die europäischen Widerstände gelingt?

Knaus: Wir haben unseren Vorschlag am Anfang „Merkel-Plan“ genannt, weil es letztlich nicht so wichtig ist, was ein Thinktank schreibt. Entscheidend ist, dass es Politiker gibt, die den Mut haben, richtige und weitsichtige Entscheidungen nicht nur gut zu heißen, sondern sie auch umzusetzen. Unsere Analyse war, dass dieser Plan als Lösung nur möglich ist, wenn ihn die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin in die Hände nimmt. Es geht hier um eine Koalition der Anständigen, die Europas Grundwerte gegen die Populisten verteidigt. Nach den Ergebnissen der vergangenen Wochen würde ich, wenn ich ein europäischer Politiker wäre, nicht mehr gegen Angela Merkel wetten.

On Writing – Gibberish and Economics

They are the two most memorable words for texts that are best forgotten: Gibberish and Gobbledygook.

“Gibberish or gobbledygook refer to speech or other use of language that is nonsense, or that appears to be nonsense. It may include speech sounds that are not actual words, or forms such as language games or highly specialized jargon that seems nonsensical to outsiders.” (Wikipedia)

As Glenn Seaborg explained one theory in 1980 in “Our heritage of the elements”:

“… gibberish comes from the name of the famous 8th-century Islamic alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as “Geber”, thus the term “gibberish” arose as a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon often used by Jabir and other alchemists who followed.”

Jabir ibn Hayyan alias Geber
Jabir ibn Hayyan alias Geber

There is no particular reason why texts about economic development should be either gibberish or gobbledygook. And yet, quite a lot of what was written by the European Commission on the economic development in the Balkans in recent years might qualify.

Take a look at the “EU Candidate & Potential Candidate Countries’ Economic Quarterly” published regularly by the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN) of the European Commission.

The report in late 2014 described trends in the “real sector” of Bosnia and Herzegovina as follows:

“The economic upturn throughout 2013 and the first quarter of 2014 came abruptly to a halt in the second quarter of 2014 mainly as a result of the heavy spring floods. Accordingly, GDP growth slipped into a negative territory by 0.5% y-o-y after expanding by 3.2% in the previous quarter. Going further, preliminary data for the third quarter released by the statistical agency indicate GDP growth to have marginally turned positive (0.6% y-o-y). Similarly, high-frequency indicators for July-October 2014 point towards a modest revival of economic activity with the country-wide industrial production up by 1% yo-y, before turning negative again in November. In particular, the mining and quarrying sector as well as the utility sector registered the largest output contraction y-o-y, -1% and 10.7%, respectively, while the manufacturing sector posted the largest output increase (4.4%). The slump of domestic demand in the second quarter of 2014 started to reverse in July September with the growth of retail sales speeding up by 2.1% y-o-y and even accelerate in October-November to 7.8% y-o-y, well above the expansion of 4.6% in 2013.”

Already at first glance this breaks the basic rule of writing well: the writer is making the reader work too hard.

At second glance, once one begins to analyse this paragraph, it turns out that its meaning is elusive … or, in plain language, this makes little sense. Read this once, twice, three times, and then ask yourself: what has been happening in the Bosnian real sector in 2014, compared to 2013? There was a flood, and the economy suffered: but what do all these quarterly variations add up to? (Note that this paragraph is all the quarterly report tells the reader about the Bosnian real sector in late 2014.)


Or take this analysis of “monetary developments in Kosovo” in early 2015:

“Consumer prices started declining in December 2014 (-0.5% y/y) and continued on a downward trajectory by February (-0.2% y/y). The decline in the price index was almost completely influenced by decreasing prices of transport and education. On the other hand, 65.7% of the CPI components have actually been increasing; most notably food 2.1% y/y, energy 7.4% y/y etc.”

The reader understands that 65.7 percent of the prices of the components of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) have increased (one assumes in February), and (one assumes) 34.3 percent of the prices have not. One learns that there have been (monthly) decreases in the “prices of education” in January and February 2015, though what that means is elusive. There is no explanation which costs of education are included in the Consumer Price Index. Or why any of this matters and to whom. And what the etc. at the end refers to.

The economic sections of progress reports, which the European Commission publishes every autumn to evaluate accession countries, have also been written by ECFIN. The following paragraph is from the 2013 annual report on Macedonia. It invites readers to meditate on the meaning of words and numbers:

“Fiscal discipline was relaxed in 2012, and the quality of public spending deteriorated further. The general government budget deficit reached 3.8%, thus overshooting even the revised deficit target, which the authorities had raised by 1 percentage point to 3.5% in autumn. Another budget rebalancing reduced mainly investment spending, due to severe revenue shortfalls. Total expenditure as share of GDP rose from 31% in 2011 to 34% in 2012, and is estimated to reach 35% in 2013. The primary government budget deficit rose to 3.1% of GDP in 2012, compared to 1.7% in 2011. Capital spending was almost unchanged in 2012 compared to 2011, at 12% of total expenditure, or just over 4% of GDP, projected to decline to 11.3% of total expenditure in 2013, or 3.9% of GDP. The share of social transfers in total expenditure declined slightly in 2012, to 44.7% from 45.2% a year earlier, and is projected to stay largely unchanged in 2013. As a share of GDP, social transfers increased somewhat, to 15% of GDP, up by 0.4 percentage points.”

This creates an illusion of meaning. The reader is offered fourteen facts:

General government deficit target (2012)
Revised general government deficit target (2012)
Actual general government deficit (2012)   
2.5 per cent
3.5 percent
3.8 percent
Total expenditure as share of GDP (2011)
Total expenditure as share of GDP (2012)
Total expenditure as share of GDP (2013 expected)  
31 percent
34 percent
35 percent
Primary government budget deficit (2011)
Primary government budget deficit (2012)   
1.7 percent
3.1 percent
Capital spending as share of total spending (2011)
Capital spending as share of total spending (2012)
Capital spending as share of total spending (2013)
12 percent
12 percent (4 percent of GDP)
11.3 percent (3.9 percent of GDP)
Social transfers in total expenditure (2011)
Social transfers in total expenditure (2012)
Social transfers in total expenditure (2013 projected)
45.2 percent (14.6 percent GDP)
44.7 percent (15 percent GDP)
44.7 percent

What does all of this mean? The reader learns that

  • Fiscal discipline was relaxed and that “the general government deficit grew more than expected”; (two ways to say the same thing)
  • The reason for this: a severe revenue shortfall.
  • In response to this shortfall the government REDUCED investment spending but “capital spending was unchanged.”
  • Meanwhile total government expenditure ROSE.
  • And the share of social transfers in expenditure DECLINED.

So what actually happened in Macedonia?

The government did not collect as many revenues as it had planned. It then reduced investment spending. Social transfers declined as a share of expenditure. Total government expenditure rose. What type of spending increase explains the remarkable increase (by 3 per cent of total GDP!) in government spending? On this, there is nothing. We learn that the “quality of public spending deteriorated further,” a point that is never explained.


The truth about markets Money
Lucid writing on economics

During such meetings I also quoted positive examples of good writing. Oxford professor and FT columnist John Kay on markets. My friend Felix Martin on money. The Dutch Central Bank, describing the “faltering Dutch economy” in its 2012 annual report (page 15). You do not need a PhD in economics to understand the annual reports by the European Central Bank either:

“The economic and financial crisis has reduced euro area potential output via two main channels: lower investment and higher structural unemployment.

First, during the most severe phase of the crisis, investment rates declined considerably, with financing conditions, such as terms and availability of credit, worsening in particular. Increased economic and political uncertainty and an unfavourable economic outlook made it more difficult to assess investment projects and lowered the expected rate of return on investments. High indebtedness of non-financial corporations in some euro area countries also made deleveraging necessary, further reducing credit demand.

Second, the crisis has also led to an increase in short to medium-term structural unemployment rates, indicated by the rise in long-term unemployment and an increase in skill mismatches. The unemployment rate of low-skilled workers has increased more than that of high-skilled workers, largely because the crisis triggered a sectoral relocation in many euro area economies, in particular a shift away from the construction sector. As it may be difficult for low-skilled workers dismissed from one sector to find jobs in other sectors, and as their human capital progressively erodes with the duration of unemployment, structural unemployment rates may remain elevated for an extended period.”

(ECB, 2014 Annual Report, page 23).

Fortunately, during 2014 awareness of the problem posed by unclear writing on economic trends has increased in many EU policy circles. There is good reason to expect that future writing by the European Commission (and ECFIN) on the economies of accession countries will be less impenetrable. (It may also be worth considering a thorough reform – or even a discontinuation – of these quarterly reports: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/db_indicators/cpaceq/index_en.htm)

PS: To add one useful example when it comes to writing about economic trends in the Balkans – certainly for the economic section in the next Kosovo progress report of the European Commission – look here: 2015 Kosovo NERP.

Enlargement 2.0 – The ESI Roadmap Proposal (Belgrade presentation)

A crisis of trust

The ESI Roadmap Proposal for Enlargement

Belgrade presentation, November 2014

The ESI future of enlargement project is supported by ERSTE Stiftung in Vienna


Every year the European Commission publishes its Enlargement Strategy. The 2014 Enlargement Strategy, presented in  October, starts out on a very optimistic note with the following sentence:

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

This assertion raises questions, though. How does the Commission measure the credibility of enlargement policy? For whom is enlargement policy more credible today than five years ago?

Here is a reality check. Eurobarometer surveys in 2008 and 2013 show growing opposition to enlargement in every single EU member state: old and new, rich and poor, those hit hard by the global economic crisis in 2008 and those relatively unscathed.

Enlargement has never been less popular in the EU than now. The 2013 Eurobarometer survey shows that an absolute majority of EU citizens oppose further enlargement (52 per cent). Opposition is stronger among euro area respondents (60 per cent). This table shows the significant lack of support for enlargement:

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_04

What is even more striking is the overarching TREND in the past five years: a dramatic drop in support across the EU. .

The fall in support for enlargement is sharpest in traditionally pro-enlargement countries such as Italy (where opposition to enlargement increased by 22 percentage points) or Spain (21). Post-2004 EU members, who initially were less sceptical, are rapidly catching up with pre-2004 members. The changes in Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are dramatic.

Here opposition to enlargement has increased most since 2008:

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_05

What about the second claim in the opening sentence: that the European Commission has enhanced the TRANSFORMATIVE power of enlargement policy?

Here is a second reality check. Every year the European Commission assesses progress and the state of alignment with EU rules and norms (the acquis) in its annual Progress Reports. It examines for all accession countries whether the alignment in each policy area is “advanced”, “moderate” or at an “early stage.”

Here is what the Commission found in 2013:

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_06

 And here is what the European Commission found for 2014:

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_07

Comparing these two tables, based on the European Commissions’ own assessment of progress, on the TRANSFORMATIVE impact of the enlargement process, we see the following:

First: there is very little change anywhere.

Second: in the case of Macedonia the Commission finds regression (from 9 to 8 “advanced” chapters).

Third: in the case of Serbia – which also opened accession talks in January  – the Commission finds no change at all!

Either the EU process is not actually transformative or the current way in which the European Commission measures transformation in its progress reports is inadequate. Or both. Regardless, the most important documents written by the European Commission to show transformative impact of the enlargement process do not support the sunny view of the Strategy paper.

There is a second striking sentence in the 2014 Enlargement Strategy:

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_02This is a standard claim, made by EU member states and by the European Commission. On 7 June 2014 the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, made a video podcast on Western Balkan enlargement in which she asserted: “There are very clear criteria for the steps needed to move closer to the EU. In the end it is up to each country whether they pass through this process rapidly or not.” The message: “the process is fair. It depends on merit. It depends on you.”

Is this claim convincing?

Look again at the 2014 assessment by the Commission. Macedonia, which became an EU candidate in 2005, is ahead of all other Balkan countries when it comes to its alignment with the acquis according to the European Commission. And yet it is behind Montenegro, Serbia and Albania when it comes to accession. Clearly this is NOT about merit.

Is Macedonia an exceptional case? Hardly. As bilateral vetoes have proliferated, the political nature of every single step in this process has become ever more obvious.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

In fact, the problem of merit and fairness goes very deep.  Today the accession process is like a stairways with more than 70 steps: to obtain candidate statue, to open accession talks, to open (34 or 35) chapters, to close chapters; then ratification and finally accession. (Note: one could count many more small steps, including the adoption of screening reports, etc …)

For each step up thes estairways there are 28 gatekeepers, EU member states, which have to agree to EACH step taken. And these 28 decide on the basis of political criteria, not merit. Whether Turkey opens Chapter 23, or when and whether Albania, Serbia or Montenegro are allowed to open a chapter, or Macedonia starts accession talks, are all political decisions.

This image captures accession today: a stairways that may well appear to be a stairway to nowhere, given the many veto points and the huge potential for obstruction.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

There is one more striking fact about this stairways that renders the current debate on accession puzzling.

Half of these stairs are linked to the “opening of chapters”.  In fact, much of the political debate on enlargement today is focused on chapters: how many get opened, and when.  But few people – including experts or journalists – ever ask themselves: what is the POINT of “opening a chapter”? What does it mean? What does it do?

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

 Take the case of Turkey, the most advanced country in its talks, having started in 2005, as an illustration. In 2014 Turkey had 14 open and 18 closed chapters (we leave two chapters, where the Commission provides no assessment of alignment, out of this table here – chapters 23 and 34).

As the following table – based on the Commission’s own assessments in its progress report – shows, there is no causal or other link between the alignment (state of progress) in a sector and whether a chapter is open or closed. This means: whether a country has many or few open chapters is no indicator of where it is in terms of its preparedness for EU accession.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

What is no less surprising: opening chapters is not only not a yardstick of progress; it is also not an incentive to make more progress in the future. This is what the European Commission found in Turkey in 2013: there was MORE progress in closed than in open chapters in Turkey during the year.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

This raises a basic question: why is it so important to open chapters? Having many open chapters does not indicate progress towards meeeting EU standards. Having many open chapters also does not make future progress more likely.

A recent study of EU-Turkey relations made the following  strong recommendation:

“In the light of the above it is stated that opening the chapters Energy (15), Judiciary and Fundamental Rights (23), Justice, Freedoms and Security (24) and Foreign, Security and Defense Policies (31) would facilitate Turkey’s drawing a robust road map under the EU umbrella at a time when the country faces three successive elections.”

This is the conventional wisdom, repeated in conference after conference, article after article. However, it is not explained HOW opening a chapter is crucial for either the EU or for Turkey; why a Turkish citizen, or a sceptical EU member state parliamentarian, should consider this significant.

In summer 2013 there was a heated debate in Turkey and in the EU whether to open a new chapter after many year in which none were opened: Chapter 22 (regional policy). There were many statements by politicians about how important this would be. Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s chief negotiator, explained in April 2013:

“Since no new chapter has been opened, I have kindly asked our prime minister to slow down everything until a new chapter is opened. I thank him for having done that. Now the process for the opening of the regional policies chapter has begun.”

Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated:

“No postponement or review of the decision to open it is possible. As we said before during the reform follow-up group meeting, we want not only the chapter 22 to open but also the chapters 23 and 24.”

The German government, on the other hand, insisted on delaying the opening until after summer 2013. In the end chapter 22 was formally opened in the autumn.  Leaders – and international media – spoke about this as if something significant had happened (Die Welt:  “Accession talks gain new momentum”)

In fact, following a meeting – the so-called Intergovernmental Conference – when it was declared that Chapter 22 was now “open”, nothing else happened. There was no additional meeting. There was no additional funding. There was no additional impetus for reform. The “opening” was political theater, for one day. It had no link to merit, criteria, or progress. Ultimately it made no difference.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01


We can now  easily understand how all these dynamics create a deeply frustrating and dysfunctional process.

In the face of growing public opposition, many EU leaders have given up defending enlargement policy. Seen from Brussels, Berlin, Paris or The Hague, the current group of candidates are problematic. They are poorer, have weaker institutions and are more politically polarised than any previous group of applicants. This has created a vicious cycle. As enlargement loses popularity in EU member states, EU leaders try to reassure their voters that the process is stricter than ever. Yet as the hurdles to be jumped appear more and more arbitrary, candidate countries find it harder to take difficult decisions in pursuit of a goal that is increasingly distant and uncertain. The stairways approach makes vetoes extremely easy. And the public debate is focused on whether chapters are open or closed, not on whether reforms are taking place.

This is not enlargement “fatigue”, suggesting a temporary state of exhaustion. It is a chronic ailment, which is getting worse.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

And at the heart of this frustration are the annual Progress Reports. As ESI found, discussing these in many European capitals during the past year, few people, even EU foreign ministry officials, read these carefully. The reports are not doing a convincing job measuring progress. They do not allow for comparisons between countries in any operationally meaningful detail. They do not educate the public about what needs to happen. Above all they do not make real transformation – if it happens – visible also to sceptics. It is as if everyone – reformers in candidate countries, publics, policy makers in the EU – is proceeding through thick fog.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

Such a proces increases frustrations. We have called this the Godot effect. It is today most pronounced in Macedonia and Turkey. However, unless the process change we may anticipate that something similar could soon happen in Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, as cynicism increases. In Bosnia and Kosovo, there is today frustration, cynicism and apathy before any EU accession process has even begun. Bosnia has not yet applied for accession. Kosovo is not even able to apply.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01



Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

 So what is to be done? In order to answer this question let us imagine a very different approach to defining and assessing progress; one that is strict, fair and transparent. A process as follows:

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

To imagine such a process is not to daydream. For this is how the Commission has acted for years in the context of visa liberalisation.

In this crucial area ALL countries in the Balkans were given precise visa roadmaps with dozens of benchmarks. These roadmaps set out clearly what the Commission expected. They listed all individual criteria. There were no short cuts. And these roadmps, based on the acquis, were essentially the same for all countries, and thus progress easily compared.

The Commission then organised a serious monitoring and assessment effort. This involved experts from the Commission and from member states.  Based on their findings detailed progress assessments were issued.

The whole process was developed by the Directorate General for Home Affairs together with the Directorate General for Enlargement. And it worked. It inspired many reforms. It made it possible to see where real reforms happened … and when they did not. Above all it convinced even sceptical EU interior ministers that when the Commission did find progress they could trust it.


Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

In fact, in October 2014, while DG enlargement published its regular progress reports, another part of the Commission also published a detailed document on progress made in the field of visa liberalisation by Turkey. It offers a clear, readable, strict and fair description of where Turkey stands. Each benchmark is assessed, using the following categories:


Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

The result of such a strict, fair, and meritocratic process in the case of the Western Balkans was to inspire civil servants. It was also clear to them what needed to be done. All countries were assessed based on the same criteria. It was possible to make transformations visible; even in special grade reports, that ESI issued at the time, based on the Commission experts’ assessments:

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

We can compare the thoroughness of this process with the current assessment of progress in key chapters in the Progress Reports.  Let us take just one subject, Chapter 18 (Statistics).

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

Look at the current assessment of progress in the field of statistics in Turkey, which has been in this process the longest. In 2014 the European Commission published just four short paragraphs, about half a page, on this chapter in the Turkey progress report.  A reader does not understand from this how far Turkey has come, what remains to be done to reach EU standards, or in what specific areas most efforts are still needed. Nor can one see how Turkey compares to other candidates.

This is surprising for many reasons:

1. The recent experience with Greece. Following the discovery of just how unreliable key statistics provided by the National Statistical Service of Greece (NSSG) had been before 2010, a new statistical agency, ELSTAT, was created. This was a priority for reform for the EU!

One might expect the EU to be just as keen to see all Balkan countries reach EU standards for all their key statistics, as soon as possible, and well before actually joining the EU, in order to be able to develop a credible track record.

2. The importance given to “economic governance” in the accession process. Without reliable economic statistics, from GDP per capita to employment, from the FDI stock to exports, discussions of economic governance in progress reports are of little use; and any evidence-based policy making on the part of governments is very hard.

3. One objective of the annual progress reports is to assess whether a country is a “functioning market economy” or FU-MAR-E. How can this be done without comparable and solid numbers and statistics?

The sooner all accession countries reach EU standards in the field of statistics the better. Now imagine a scenario where the European Commission draws up a roadmap for Chapter 18, gives it to every country, and thus spells out what all the key benchmarks for a future EU member are … and then assesses the state of affairs against these benchmarks every year with the help of experts, in order to produce a document on statistics that is similar to the recent October report the Commission produced for the Council and the European Parliament on visa liberalisation.


Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

The current EU accession process has not halted the erosion of trust in the policy since 2008. It has not led to measurable transformative impact in key policy areas. The visa roadmap process, on the other hand, has inspired and encouraged change. It has also – crucially – made this change visible and credible to sceptical outsiders.


Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

Given these experiences ESI proposes to the European Commission to put the idea of chapter roadmaps to the test as soon as possible.

We propose that DG enlargement develops four pilot roadmaps, and then assess progress in these four fields similar to the way the Commission has done with visa roadmaps; for all accession countries,  already in the 2015 Progress Reports: Statistics (fundamental for economic governance), Procurement (central to progress in the rule of law and the fight against corruption), food safety (key to attract FDI in a vital sector) and Financial Control.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

Giving such chapter roadmaps to all seven countries, and assessing them by reference to these benchmarks in 2015, would mark a small but very important improvement in the current process of writing progress reports.

One additional effect would be similar to the regional competition we have seen in the field of visa liberalisation. Or to the debates on public policy triggered by the Paris-based OECD with its regular publication of results of its PISA tests in the field of education.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01


Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

ESI has recently presented these ideas in many capitals. Here are five of the most frequently asked questions concerning this  CHAPTER ROADMAP PROPOSAL

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

The first question often posed concerns incentives. In the case of visa roadmaps, we hear, there was a clear “reward” at the end of the road: visa liberalisation. This was popular with the broader public. Would elites and civil servants in accession countries be equally motivated to carry out reforms in fields such as Statistics or Procurement, without a similar tangible reward?

We believe that this question puts the issue of incentives upside down.

When elected governments say that they want their countries to join the EU as a matter of national interest – and embark on a many-years-long process that requires work, focus, human resources, and that remains uncertain until the very end – they state that they have an intrinsic motivation to carry out reforms. The notion that the EU should “bribe” governments to incentivise them to carry out reforms on this path is wrong. Governments that need to be bribed in such a blunt manner should never apply, and simply risk being exposed as uninterested in the EU accession process. Then it depends on publics and voters who they will react.

The EU acccession process is more similar to a young football player being offered a place at La Masia, the famous football school of FC Barcelona; or to a budding entrepreneur admitted to Harvard Business School.

People do not get paid to submit themselves to rigorous training at these institutions of excellence. Instead they have to work hard. If they do not have intrinsic motivation this will become apparent very quickly, but in a fair manner.

However, no one would think that a young footballer might just as well practice all by himself in the street, rather than benefit from the training system of La Masia; or that a great business school has nothing to offer to those who come prepared to work hard. What such centers offer is excellent coaching by experts, precise feedback, a system of instruction that will make those who take part better at what they say they want to do in the future.

Of course there are also more specific rewards: prestige and certificates to validate progress. In the case of chapter roadmaps more FDI – if investors believe that institutions and rules are becoming more predictable.  One can even imagine more donor aid for those who perform best. But the real reward is for leaders – and civil servants, who do most of the extra work and are not paid more for it – to feel that what they do is taking their countries forward; that is makes sense for their country and for them professionally. For this incentives must be intrinsic.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

Can such chapter roadmaps be done for every chapter? No. We believe that they cannot be done for some chapters where there is no clear acquis (Chapter 23 or Chapter 30).

But this does not mean it cannot or should not be done for most chapters.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

Does such a roadmap-approach encourage superficial reforms? Not if the roadmap – like visa roadmaps – is done well, and measures not just laws but institutions and performance. Then it becomes a very good tool also to assess progress over time and track records.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01


Is this a dramatic change in enlargement policy?

No. Member state do not lose their veto. They still have to agree – unanimously – to give candidate status, to open accession talks, to open chapters, to close chapters. However in the meantime the Commission helps these students get better … and provides member states with more information and feedback to assess how accession countries do.

Such an approach allows the European Commission to do better what it is already doing and already has a mandate for:  assess annual progress according to the Copenhagen criteria in all countries in a strict and fair manner, provide feedback, and encourage reform.

Such a change puts the substance of actual reform back at the heart of the accession process. This is  win-win situation for everyone.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01


Not everything will be in such roadmaps. Some reforms only make sense just before accession. The aquis changes, so it also makes sense to adapt roadmaps every two years. It is always possible for member states to insist on additional reforms as preconditions for them allowing a chapter to be closed (or even opened, though this can both happen at the same time later; Croatia actually opened and closed a number of chapters all in the final year of its talks).

These chapter roadmaps would likely capture 95 percent of reforms needed in key areas.  This would be a flexible tool (fishery benchmarks might be of different importance in landlocked Macedonia than in Turkey), but in the end the idea is that the acquis is the same for all future members, as they are all heading for the same horizon.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

The past five years have seen a steady erosion of trust in enlargement across the EU and in many accession countries.

Turkey has been negotiating since 2005 and has not yet opened even half its chapters.

Macedonia is a candidate since 2005 and has not yet been given a date even to open talks.

Albania became a candidate this year, but has been warned already that it could be years away from opening accession talks.

Bosnia and Herzegovina concluded its negotiations on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in 2008 without seeing the agreement enter into force.

To an increasing number of people in accession countries the current process appears to be a stairway to nowhere. And yet, reforms in all these countries are in the interests of their citizens. They are also in the interests of the EU. As the new Commission reassesses how it can best promote reforms, we believe it should seriously look at what has worked in recent years.

We believe that improving the work that goes into the progress reports does not constitute a change in enlargement policy, and that therefore the European Commission can act on its own to improve what it is already doing. However, such a change does alter the way the Commission works. It is a real challenge, and it makes sense to implement it gradually, testing it along the way. It remains to be seen whether the new European Commission is able to carry out such reforms.

For the sake of all Europeans, we can only hope it is.

Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01



Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01



Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01



Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01



Belgrade - ESI Roadmap Proposal - Nov 2014 - Gerald Knaus_Seite_01

Earlier presentation:

See also:

Cosmopolitan visionary – Boutaris and Thessaloniki

Yannis Boutaris, Mayor of Thessaloniki

Sometimes you meet a person that is a force of nature. A person of convictions, with the modesty that comes from true charisma and the confidence that comes from not having to pretend. A person inspiring others by personal example, making words like engagement, citizenship and dignity shine in all their splendour. Somebody who makes you feel proud to belong to their generation. And who makes you wonder whether you are really doing enough yourself.

In recent weeks I felt this sense of awe working on old and new European dissidents. Meeting Khadija Ismayil and other human rights defenders from Azerbaijan, has this effect. So does rereading the writings of Havel, of the Russian Memorial generation of human rights defenders, of Adam Michnik and other Poles of his generation.

And so does meeting the mayor of Thessaloniki, Yannis Boutaris, to talk about what is possible in local politics at a moment of deep crisis. In a city shaped by decades of deep conservatism and fear of neighbours, from the Cold War to the Balkan wars of the 1990s and later. 72 years old, chain-smoking, with an ear-ring and tatoos, for decades a succesful entrepeneur, a recovered alcoholic, a long time civic and environmental activists, and now twice elected mayor of Greece’s second city.

I have come here this Sunday at the invitation of the Navarino network, a local civic organisation which has worked for a long time to open Thessaloniki to the world. I am to speak about the state of the Balkans in 2014, about false confidence and complacency.

I tell the tragic story of Soviet dissidents like Sergei Kovalev, who went to jail under Brezhnev, then became government human rights officials, and in 2014 face renewed pressure from their state. It is a tragic story with no happy end, with Russia like that fabled creature from Greek mythology, the Ouroboros: a snake that devours itself. Often history is like this. Too often.

Ouroboros – societies sometimes resemble this ancient creature,
devouring themselves

 I also speak about what Greece – and Thessaloniki – might do to prevent future vicious circles in the Balkans. In the end  I present the ESI proposal for how to address the name dispute with Macedonia.  (see in the annex of this report:  Vladimir and Estragon in Skopje. A fictional conversation on trust and standards and a plea on how to break a vicious circle) The only – encouraging – reaction I get from a big auditorium full of Thessaloniki dignitaries and young people is one comment: “Greece is ready to do this, do you think Skopje is ready?”


Then I meet with Boutaris for an interview. This was already a rich and memorable Sunday. It only got better.

Boutaris explains the value of civic engagement, voluntarism and how he strives to make his city embrace a multiethnic past. He explains how even conservatives silently tell him that they approve of his open support for gay pride … though lack the courage to say so openly. He explains why opening to Turkey, Israel and Jews across the world is vital for his city, given its history. And why having a Holocaust museum (at a cost of an estimated 25 million Euro, the design has already been done) will be so important.

How he is happy to have a Durres Park in the city now, and hopes to build many more links with other Balkan cities. How reaching out to Izmir is vital – proposing to have “days of Izmir” in Thessaloniki, and “days of Thessaloniki” there. Why having a Muslim cemetary is the most obvious thing in a city like Thessaloniki. How “Turks are our bothers and Europeans are our partners.” And how, as a Vlach, he recognises the common regional heritage when he visits the village of his ancestors in today’s Republic of Macedonia near Krusevo.

He explains how it is possible to cut the public administration (from 5,000, when he came into office in 2011 to 3,500 today) and reduce the deficit, while moving towards green urbanism and a different traffic policy. How he is encouraged that the number of bicycle shops has gone from 2 to more than 20 in a few years. And how much remains to be done.  How he has worked to encourage budget flight connections and direct links by ferries to his city, with increasing success. How this has resulted in sharply rising numbers of foreign visitors.

How his political goal is to make people proud of this, their liberal and open city. With the new slogan “I love my city and adopt my neighbourhood.” How he hopes city employees will be able to walk in the streets and citizens will respect them for their honesty and competence.

Remember: this is Greece, the EU country in its deepest economic and social crisis in decades. This is the country where the self-proclaimed fascists of Golden Dawn won 16 percent in recent local elections in Athens. With a prime minister who made his name by fostering nationalism in the early 1990s. A country all too often described in the foreign press as a hopeless case, a patient at best, an ungrateful recipient of aid at worst.

But this is also now the Greece of Boutaris and the cosmopolitanism of the new Thessaloniki.

When he became mayor, he tells me, Thessaloniki had a number of big taboos, including Turkey and the Jewish history of the town (where Jews were the largest ethnic group until 1912 and the port was closed on the Sabbath). Not long ago the City Council declared Mark Mazower, author of the great book Salonica, symbolically a persona non grata – for having described the multiethnic past of the city. This was the time when the local bishop called on people not to vote for Boutaris.

Now Boutaris looks forward to the day when citizens of Thessaloniki will be proud of the history of their city, as described in Mazower’s book. The book ends with the observation, true for all of Europe:

“As small states integrate themselves in a wider world, and even the largest learn how much they need their neighbours’ help to tackle the problems that face them all, the stringently patrolled and narrow-minded conception of history which they once nurtured and which gave them a kind of justification starts to look less plausible and less necessary. Other futures may require other pasts.

The history of the nationalists is all about false continuities and convenient silences, the fictions necessary to tell the story of the rendez-vous of a chosen people with the land marked out for them by destiny. It is an odd and implausible version of the past …”

As Boutaris tells it, being open to the past and to others is simple good sense: “if you accept differences, life is better”. This explains his support for gay pride in this orthodox city, and how he sees attidues changing. He talks about this priorities for the second term: moving towards a green city, a city in which “rich people are proud to take public transport” instead of poor people required to have a car.

When we made the 2008 ESI film on Thessaloniki Boutaris was still in opposition. Now he has been twice elected. The first time by the narrrowest of margins (some 300 votes). The second time with a clear and strong majority and 58 percent. In some elections ever single vote matters. Civic engagement matters. Having convictions matters. And fighting for them for decades can bring results.

If Bosnia had just one mayor like this in one of its big cities, ideally young and full of eneregy, so that he or she could then go on to show what is possible: the country might be a different place If only Greece or Turkey had more independents, former entrepreneurs and social activists, entering politics like this.

Thessaloniki, thank you for the inspiration. It is great to be back.


PS: Some further reading:

Thessaloniki’s exemplary revival:

“The mayor’s greatest legacy, however, may be the city’s much-improved performance in tourism. However, his unconventional approach has made him some enemies among traditionalists. Between end-2010 and end-2013, Thessaloniki achieved 19% growth in tourist arrivals according to data from the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), compared with a decline of 13% for Athens over the same period.

To a great extent, this has been achieved through approaching a “traditional enemy” such as Turkey as a potential tourism market, leading to allegations that the mayor was “serving foreign interests”. Mr Boutaris is unapologetic about his bid to present Thessaloniki as a Balkan “melting pot”, stressing the city’s multi-ethnic history, a place where Greeks, Turks, Jews and Slavs lived together until the upheavals of the early 20th century, when the Turks left, the Greeks from Asia Minor arrived and the Jewish population was decimated in the Holocaust. The attraction of Thessaloniki to Turkish visitors stems from the fact that it is the birthplace of Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the modern Turkish state. In addition, the Boutaris administration has made much of the fact that for centuries Thessaloniki had a large and vibrant Sephardic Jewish community. In broadening the city’s tourism profile, a previously rather claustrophobic city is starting to become a more open one, embracing its multicultural past.

The rebranding of Thessaloniki based on this new perception of its past has managed to increase the influx of visitors from Turkey and from Israel. Overnight stays at the city’s hotels increased during the past four years by 226% for Turks and 358% for Israelis, reaching 80,000 and 50,000, respectively, by the end of 2013. Coinciding with a period of deepening national economic crisis, the tourism revival has been welcome. The shift in public opinion in the city has been radical, and previous detractors now firmly support a similar rapprochement with all neighbouring countries … “

Meeting the Mayor


Presenting on the Balkans in 2014



A simple idea: All Balkan countries take the OECD PISA test – and the Commission includes it in its Progress Report


Sometimes a simple idea has the potential to have a lot of impact. Here is one simple idea for the day, split into three concrete recommendations:

a. the European Commission – and in particular DG enlargement – ask all Western Balkan countries to take the regular PISA tests of the OECD, as one important way to assess whether in the future their economies will be able to “withstand competitive pressure” – which is one of the 1993 Copenhagen criteria.

b. the European Commission includes the scores of PISA as one of its main indicators in the annual progress report section on economic criteria – and includes a table comparing the performance of countries in the region with the rest of the EU.

c. civil society organisations in Balkan countries use this as a trigger to launch a broader debate in their countries on the quality and importance of education in national debates. Both of which are currently – to put it mildly – sub-optimal for countries trying to converge with a much more prosperous European Union.

This morning I met senior people in DG Enlargement in Brussels and made this proposal. I also made it in many recent presentations with EU ambassadors and EU officials in Paris, Skopje, Zagreb, The Hague, Berlin, Rome, Ankara and Istanbul. And as a result of some feedback I am increasingly hopeful on the first and second recommendation above. (This in turn will help with recommendation three.)

For more on all this see our forthcoming report on how to assess in future progress reports whether a candidate has a “functioning market economy”. For those impatient now, here are a few core facts:

Background: candidates, potential candidates and PISA

It seems obvious: one of the most important factors contributing to future development of an economy is the quality of the national education system.  And one of the most straightforward ways to launch a debate on this is to look at the OECD’s PISA tests, taken since 2000, every three years in some 65 countries.

Take a look at some recent findings:

PISA results – mathematics 2012

Taiwan (top country)[1]

Netherlands (top EU15 country) 523
Estonia (top EU13 country) 521
Croatia 471
Serbia 449
Turkey 448
Bulgaria (lowest EU country) 439
Montenegro 410
Albania 394
Bosnia and Herzegovina

PISA results – reading 2012

Japan (top country)[2] 538
Finland (top EU15 country) 524
Poland (top EU13 country) 518
Croatia 485
Turkey 475
Serbia 446
Bulgaria (lowest EU country) 436
Montenegro 422
Albania 394
Bosnia and Herzegovina

PISA results – science 2012

Japan (top country)[3] 547
Finland (top EU15 country) 545
Estonia (top EU13 country) 541
Croatia 491
Turkey 463
Serbia 445
Cyprus (lowest EU country) 438
Montenegro 410
Albania 397
Bosnia and Herzegovina


These tables raise many fascinating and important policy questions:

1. How can Albania and Montenegro close the serious gap (serious even compared to other countries in the region)?

2. How can all these countries learn from Estonia or Poland, some of the best performers among former communist countries?

3.  Where would Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina stand if they took the test? (Macedonia took the test in 2000: 381 in math, 401 in science, 373 in reading – abysmal scores I discussed in a recent Rumeli Observer; it is now taking it again for the first time this year).

Of course it would also be useful to have other credible education statistics from ALL candidates and potential candidates that allow for EU-wide and Europe-wide comparisons.
Here are some good statistics which already exist for the EU and some of the candidate countries. Again, they raise interesting policy issues.

They might also – if properly highlighted – trigger more important policy debates.



How many 4 year old are in primary or pre-primary education? In the EU

91.7 % of four year-olds were in pre-primary or primary education across the whole of the EU-27 in 2010. Participation rates of four year-olds in pre-primary or primary education were generally high — national averages of over 95 % in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom; as well as in Iceland and Norway. By contrast, Greece, Poland and Finland reported that fewer than 70 % of four year-olds were enrolled; lower rates were also recorded in the EFTA countries of Liechtenstein and Switzerland, as well as in the acceding and candidate countries of Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.”

Only national data are available for Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (data for 2010), where rates stood at 57.4 % and 24.0 % respectively. More than half of the 25 level 2 Turkish regions reported that less than 20.0 % of four year-olds participated in pre-primary or primary education in 2011. The lowest participation rate was recorded for the southern Turkish region of Gaziantep, Adıyaman, Kilis (9.7 %), while the second lowest rate was recorded for İstanbul (10.9 %).”[4]


“The number of students aged 17 in education (all levels combined) in the EU-27 in 2010 was 5.2 million, equivalent to 91.7 % of all 17-year-olds. The age of 17 is important as it often marks the age at which young people are faced with a choice between: remaining in education; following some form of training; or looking for a job. The number of 17 year-olds in education relative to the population of 17 year-olds exceeded 80 % in the vast majority of the regions within the EU in 2011, and this pattern was repeated across all of the EFTA regions … As such, for one reason or another, the vast majority of young people aged 17 remained in the education system at or even after the end of compulsory schooling.”

This indicates, for instance, a clear problem in Turkey:

“Among the acceding and candidate country regions, the proportion of 17 year-olds who remained in education was above 80.0 % in Croatia (national data) and three Turkish regions (including the capital city region of Ankara and two north-western regions of Bursa, Eskişehir, Bilecik and Tekirdağ, Edirne, Kırklareli). There were four Turkish regions where the proportion of 17 year-olds who remained in education was 50.0 % or lower — they were all in the south and east of the country, namely: Sanlıurfa, Diyarbakır; Mardin, Batman, Sırnak, Siirt; Ağri, Kars, Iğdir, Ardahan; and Van, Muş, Bitlis, Hakkari. The lowest ratio of 17 year-olds remaining in education was recorded in Van, Mus, Bitlis, Hakkari, where the share was only slightly more than one third (35.5 %) in 2011.

“An indicator that presents information about early leavers from education and training tracks the proportion of individuals aged 18–24 who have finished no more than a lower secondary education, and who are not involved in further education or training: some 13.5 % of 18–24 year-olds in the EU-27 were classified as early leavers from education and training in 2011, with a somewhat higher proportion of male early leavers (15.3 %) compared with female early leavers (11.6 %). Europe’s growth strategy, Europe 2020, has set an EU-27 target for the proportion of early leavers from education and training to be below 10 % by 2020; there are individual targets for each of the Member States that range from 5 % to 29 %.”

Tertiary education:

“Tertiary education is the level of education offered by universities, vocational universities, institutes of technology and other institutions that award academic degrees or professional certificates. In 2010 (the 2009/10 academic year), the number of students enrolled in tertiary education in the EU-27 stood at 19.8 million; this was equivalent to 62.7 % of all persons aged 20–24.

In candidate countries:

“In Turkey there was a particularly high concentration of tertiary students in Bursa, Eskişehir, Bilecik — this may be attributed to there being an open university in Eskişehir, where a high proportion of students are enrolled on distance learning courses. Otherwise, the ratio of students enrolled in tertiary education to residents aged 20–24 was below 60 % for all of the remaining regions in the candidate and accession countries.”

Tertiary attainment

“In 2011, for the EU-27 as a whole, just over one third (34.6 %) of 30–34 year-olds had completed tertiary education. These figures support the premise that a rising proportion of the EU’s population is studying to a higher level — in keeping with one of the Europe 2020 targets, namely, that by 2020 at least 40 % of persons aged 30–34 in the EU-27 should have attained a tertiary level education.”

Again Turkey is backward:

“Bati Anadolu (23.6 %) — which includes the Turkish capital city of Ankara — was the only Turkish region to report that more than one in five of its residents aged 30–34 had attained a tertiary level education. By contrast, the lowest ratios … were recorded for the north-east of Turkey (Kuzeydoğu Anadolu), where only just over 1 in 10 (10.2 %) of the population aged 30–34 had attained a tertiary level education.


One thing should be obvious: if PISA rankings and such tables are seriously discussed in candidate countries, everyone would benefit. And if the EU can manage to encourage a focus on such issues – through its own regular assessments – everyone would gain.

So let us hope that this simple idea will indeed be picked up.


[1] Shanghai, Singapore, and Hong Kong excluded as cities.

[2] Sic.

[3] Sic

[6] Croatia, 2002; Serbia, 2004.

[7] Albania, 2007.

[8] Albania, 2009.


ЗОШТО МАКЕДОНИЈА НЕ Е ФИНСКА (“Why Macedonia is not Finland” – full text in Macedonian)


Една од државите во светот за која сигурно очекувате да биде на врвот на сите национални рангирања сигурно е Финска. Не е важно што се мери – среќа, креативност, одржливост, родова еднаквост, благосостојба на децата…Финска секогаш завршува како глобален лидер.

Минатото лето патував во Финска за да научам повеќе за финската експертиза во менаџирањето на границите. Патував низ земјата со еден фински генерал и ги посетувавме границите со Русија, крајбрежната стража и аеодромот во Хелсинки учејќи за новите технологии и алатки за меѓународна комуникација во регионот на Балтичкото море.

Тоа беше една импресивна демонстрација на финската компетенција и потсетник за тоа како една мала нација е изложена геополитички со векови. Но, отвори и прашања – како финската нација станала толку просперитетна? Дали нивната приказна на напредокот и просперитетот содржи пошироки лекции и за други мали европски држави со проблематично минато и комплицирано соседство? Што би и требало на Македонија (Косово, Албанија, Босна или Србија) за да станат богати и просперитетни како Финска во некое време во иднина? Зошто Македонија не е Финска?

Во обид да „ископам“ што е можно повеќе за Финцките се обидов да ја најдам и прочитам сета достапна литература на германски и англиски. Се надевам дека моите фински пријатели ќе ме поправат доколку текстот содржи површни импресии и коментари и ќе ги додадат и своите гледишта.

Колку за споредба

Прво, нешто околу тоа како се мери успехот на земјата. Ако проучувате колку многу и колку различни интернационални рангирања постојат, сигурно ќе бидете во право ако решите да не ги земате пресериозно. Како и да е, земени како група рангирањата можат да раскажат интересна приказна. Еве една колекција од повеќе интернационали рангирања кои ги погледнав за минатата година пред да тргнам на пат кон Северот.

Постои Индексот на среќа на Обединетите нации кој е базиран на работата на Глобалниот институт на Џефри Сачс.

„Според извештајот за среќа на ООН од 2 Април Финска е рангирана како втора најсреќна земја после Данска“

Потоа, тука е и Индексот за просперитет од 2012 година каде што Финска е седма:

1 Норвешка
2 Данска
3 Шведска
4 Австралија
5 Нов Зеланд
6 Канада
7 Финска
8 Холандија
9 Швајцарија
10 Ирска

Потоа го имаме Индексот на одржливост на општествата каде што Финска повторно е во првите десет:

Човекова благосостојба Економска благосостојба
2006 2008 2010 2012 2006 2008 2010 2012
Исланд 5 4 4 1 Швајцарија 9 1 1 1
Норвешка 2 1 1 2 Шведска 4 3 2 2
Шведска 1 2 2 3 Норвешка 12 9 3 3
Финска 3 3 3 4 Чешка 8 5 4 4
Австрија 6 5 5 5 Данска 1 6 6 5
Јапонија 4 6 6 6 Финска 6 7 7 6
Швајцарија 13 9 9 7 Естонија 5 2 9 7
Холандија 12 14 14 8 Словенија 3 4 5 8
Ирска 9 8 7 9 Австралија 11 13 10 9
Германија 7 7 8 10 Луксембург 2 12 8 10

Глобалниот индекс на креативноста се однесува на технологијата, талентите и толеранцијата. (Финска е прва во првите две категории):

1. Шведкса
2. САД
3. Финска
4. Данска
5. Австралија
6. Нов Зелан
7. Канада
8. Норвешка
9. Сингапур

Индексот за благосостојба на децата на УНИЦЕФ ја рангира Финска во првите 5 земји:

1. Холандија
2. Норвешка
3. Исланд
4. Финска
5. Шведска
6. Германија
7. Луксембург
8. Швајцарија
9. Белгија

Финска е и првата земја во светот која на жените им го дала правото на глас и правото да бидат бирани во парламентот. Првиот фински парламент во 1906 има 19 жени од 200 пратеници. Овој процент не беше достигнат во Турција се до 2011. Последниот Индекс за родовите разлики од 2012 покажува дека Финска се уште е лидер во однос на правата на жените и рамноправност на половите:

6.Нов Зеланд

Дури и неодамнешнио Индекс на земји со пријателска инфраструктура за велосипеди ја сместува Финска во топ петте земји:

1. Данска
1. Холандија
3. Шведска
4. Финска
5. Германија
6. Белгија
7. Австрија
8. Унгарија
9. Словачка
10.Обединето кралство


Конечно, рангирањата кои допринесуваат најмногу за тоа Финска да биде глобална сензација се ПИСА тестовите, односно Програмата за меѓународно оценување на учениците спроведена од Организацијата за економски развој и соработка (ОЕЦД). Тестовите мерат писменост, математика и научни вештини на 14 и 15 годишните ученици низ целиот свет. Финските резултати од овие тестови од 2001 наваму буквално донесоа илјадници делегати во северната земја кои сакаат да видат во што е тајната на финскиот успех.

Да, но зошто?

Накусо, на Финскаи оди добро. Очигледното прашање за Македонците, Албанците, Босанците и Србите кои гледаат на овие рангирања е дали тие воошто имаат некаква релевантност во нивните општества.

Која е причината и ефектот од ваквата успешна приказна? Дали е изненадување дека во општество во кое децата живеат добро и се здрави, растат во семејства чии родители живеат и работат во креативни градови и исто така, имаат добри училишта? Зарем не е очигледно дека држава каде што девојчињата живеат во околина која негува рамноправност на половите ќе биде подобра држава во однос на образованието што им се нуди на жените отколку патријархални општества каде што жените не можат да наследат земја како што е во случајот на Косово?! Дали финскиот успех е резултат на нивниот добар образовен систем…или е обратно?

Позади ова навидум нерешливо прашање лежи друго, поголемо прашање. Дали некој знае друга држава чиј што јазик го разбираат многу малку странци, а кои што успеале да произведат корисни патокази за домашните реформи?

“Ако племето од другата страна на реката преминало од камено во бронзено доба, тогаш вашето племе се соочува со изборот или да се држи до својата компаративна предност од каменото доба или да емулира со соседното племе во бронзената доба…стратегијата на емулација беше задолжителна премин-точка за сите нации кои денеска важат за богати“ (Ерик.С. Рејнерт)

Земете го образованието. Досега многу е напишано на тема „лекции од Финска“ и нивниот успех на ПИСА тестовите. Финските деца одат на училиште помалку часови од другите деца било каде на светот: 5.500 часа на возраст од 7 до 14 години споредено со повеќе од 7.000 часа во другите земји членки на ОЕЦД. Италијански петнаесетгодишник ќе оди на училиште две години подолго од негов фински врсник. Тие, исто така, тргнуваат две години порано на училиште. Италија е рангирана 32 во математика и наука и 27 во читање на ПИСА тестовите. Очигледно, успехот не е механички резултат на часовите поминати на училиште.

Ова покренува многу прашања. Што да се емулира? Што Финските ученици учат, кога тие не се во училиште? Во цело поглавје во неодамнешната книга за финското образование  се опишува за учењето во не-училишната средина,   улогата на музеите и библиотеките. Во 2010та година имало 790 главни  и филијални библиотеки во Финска. Годишно, имало по 53 милиони посетители во библиотеките, а просечниот број на  кредити по предметите годишно за секој Финец е 18. Би било интересно да се споредат статистиките од Македонија или Косово, почнувајќи со бројот на народните библиотеки и споредувањето на читателските навики Експертот за образование Паси Сахлберг, напиша:

Што прават учениците во Финска кога часовите им завршуваат порано за разлика од другите земји:? Во принцип, учениците слободно можат да си одат дома во попладневните часови, освен ако не им се нуди нешто во училиштето. Основните училишта се охрабруваат да организираат  активности за најмладите  после училиште и едуактивни или рекреативни клубови за постарите.

Тој додаде дека две третини од учениците на возраст од 10 до 14 години се дел од најмалку една младинска асоцијација.

Што се лекциите на политиката: Дали се тоа деца во земјите каде што има многу креативни симулации надвор од училиштето, па не треба да трошат премногу време за часовите… но, дали реверсот е точен во земјите кои немаат музеи или јавни библиотеки?  Дури и во  интернет ерата книгите и мрежата на јавни библиотеки е важна кога станува збор за симулирање на љубовта кон читањето? (Или, можеби  е уште поважно кои видови на детски книги ќе се најдат на нивниот јазик, откако тие стапнале во библиотека?

Од друга страна, ако сѐ работи, бидејќи „тоа трае село да се едуцираат дете”, дали учењето на поединечните аспекти  на финската политика нуди водич за македонскиот, косовскиот, албанскиот или босанскиот  Министер за образование?

Всушност, вистинската лекција – главната поента е да се нагласи и дискутира  од балканска  перспектива – може да биде поинаква и многу базична. Не дека е  најважен овој или оној аспект од финското образование, јавната администрација или социјалната политика. Тоа е општиот став кон напредокот и развојот, во смисла на она кои прашања најмногу значат, која обликува како да распределите дел од највредните ресурси … времето и вниманието.Реалната и значајна разлика меѓу Македонија и Финска се интересите на луѓето  – носители на одлуки, родителите, наставниците – со што тие сметаат дека е доволно важно за да се борат  сѐ додека не најдат поединечни подобрувања.


Sculpture in Helsinki overlooking the Baltic Sea Title: Happiness

Добро е познато дека финските учители се извонредно образовани. Во Финска наставниците во основно училиште мораат да имаат завршено магистерски студии и мораат да имаат направено вистинско истражување во образованието во рамки на студиите. Од нив се очекува да размислуваат сериозно за активностите во кои се впуштаат. Од нив се бара да размислуваат за основното образование, да поставуваат поинакви и нови прашања за тоа на што се базира и на што може да се базира успехот. На овој начин тие заземаат простор во широка национална диксусија.

Дали ова е дел од образованието на учителите низ Балканот? Дали учителите во Македонија или Косово имаат мислечки педагошки вештини? Дали образованието како такво е главен субјет на нивното образование?

А што е со креаторите на политики? Дали дебатите за образовните политики во Западен Балкан се продолжуваат на база на емириски истражувања? Дали реформите се темелат на реалните проценки на статус-кво? Дали образовните политики се дискутираат сериозно во националните парламенти?

Мислам дека повеќето од вас кои го читате ова ќе се посомневате дека воопшто постојат одговори на овие прашања. Но, како овие состојби можат да се променат? I

Да ги земеме резултатите од ПИСА од 2012 година и да ја споредиме Македонија со Финска:

ПИСА ресултати математика – 2012

Шангај – топ држава 613
Холандија (топ ЕУ 15) 523
Естонија (топ ЕУ 13) 521
Хрватска 471
Србија 449
Турција 448
Бугарија (најслаба ЕУ држава) 439
Црна Гора 410
Албанија 394
Босна и Херцеговина

ПИСА резултати – читање 2012

Шангај 570
Финска (топ ЕУ 15) 524
Полска (топ ЕУ 13) 518
Хрватска 485
Турција 475
Србија 446
Бугарија (најслаба ЕУ држава) 436
Montenegro 422
Albania 394
Bosnia and Herzegovina

ПИСА резултати – наука 2012

Шангај – топ држава 580
Финска (топ ЕУ 15) 545
Естонија (топ ЕУ 13) 541
Хрватска 491
Турција 463
Србија 445
Кипар (најслаба ЕУ држава) 438
Црна Гора 410
Албанија 397
Босна и Херцеговина

Во 2012 Финска има најдобри резултати во наука и читање од сите членки на ЕУ. Полска и Естонија, исто така, имаат добри резултати. Србија е полоша од Турција. Албанија помина навистина лошо.

А Македонија? Воопшто и не зема учество на тестот! And Macedonia? It did not even take the test! Сето ова е сè повеќе и повеќе збунувачки со оглед на драматичните резултати кога Македонија го направи тестот, еднаш и за последен пат, во 2000 година:

“На најдолниот крај од скалата, 18 отсто од учениците од земјите на ОЕЦД и над 50 отсто од учениците во Албанија, Бразил, Индонезија, Македонија и Перу имаат Ниво 1 вештин или подолу. Овие ученици, во најдобар случај можат да се справат само со најосновните задачи на читање. Студенти кои учествуваа во тестот не се случајна група”, се вели во известувањето од тестот на ОЕЦД.

Процентот на студенти со сериозни потешкотии при читањето во 2000 е следниов:


Level 1 and below!
Финска 7
Полска 15
Унгарија 23
Грција 25
Бугарија 40
Македонија 63
Албанија 71

Има и пошокантни детали:

под ниво 1 ниво 1 ниво 2 ниво 3 ниво 4 ниво 5
Македонија 35 28 24 11 2 0
Албанија 44 27 21 8 1 0
Бугарија 18 22 27 22 9 2
Грција 9 16 26 28 17 5
Унгарија 7 16 25 29 18 5
Финска 2 5 14 29 32 18
Полска 0 15 24 28 19 6


(Македонија токму сега по 14 поминати години реши да го земе учество во тестот по втор пат. Дали е ова можеби почеток на една поинаква дебата?)

Сите лидери имаат лимитиран буџет на внимание. Кои се мислите на премиерите и министрите кога си легнуваат навечер и кога се будат наутро? Кои прашања им ги поставуваат на странските гости? Таткото на модерниот менаџмент Питер Дракер, еднаш напиша:

“Ние со право сакаме да задржиме што е можно повече топки во воздухот како циркуските жонглери. Но, дури и тие го прават тоа околу 10 минути и не повеќе. Ако жонглерот пробуваше да го прави тоа подолго, сигурно кога тогаш ќе ги испуштеше топките“.

Најпосле, единствениот тотално нефлексибилен ресурс кај секој поединец е времето – родител или премиер – тоа е времето. Ова е се разбира точно и за политичката класа. На кои активности им се посветени? Што се дебатира во парламентот, во локалната самоуправа, во здруженијата на родители или наставници, што? Ако обрзованието не една од овие теми, тогаш е разбирливо зошто Македонија не може да фати чекор со остатокот од Европа. Може да се претпостави и дека моменталната генерација на млади кои излегуваат од училиштата нема да можат да се натпреваруваат со своите врсници низ Европа.

Но, како воопшто едно општество станало толку опседнато со човечкиот капитал, образованието и поттикнувањето на креативноста како што е оваа мала нордиска нација?



Во суштина, приказната за просперитетот и развојот на Финска е приказна за прераспределба на време и внимание. Тоа е приказна за фокус, за тоа како  со текот на времето, делумните промени можат да доведат до драматични трансформации.

Финска не е  отсекогаш успешна приказна за каква што ја знаеме  денес. Овој успех е резултат на визијата на националната политика. Тоа е приказна за неверојатен успех.

“Финска без дилеми може да претендира за еден од најголемите успеси на модерната ера,” вака почнува предговорот на Дејвид Кирби во книгата „Кратка историја на Финска“.

Тој додава:

“Трансформацијата на она што безмалку еден век претставуваше лошо земјоделско земјиште на северната периферија на Европа во една од најпросперитетните држави на Европската унија денес е една извонредна приказна, но тоа воопшто не значи дека приказната е спокојна”.

Фред Синглтон ја започнува својата Куса историја на Финска вака:

“Денес Финците се една од најпросперитетните, социјално прогресивни , стабилни и мирољубиви нации во светот“.

Но, ќе запише Синглтон „домот на Финците од прва воопшто не ветуваше дека може да биде база за една успешна држава“.

Зошто успехот на оваа држава се именува како „неверојатен“? Повеќето пресметки за предодреденоста на успехот започнуваат со епската тема – природата. Фред Синглтон за ова ќе забележи „во текот на историјата Финска не можеше да привлече освојучи или трговци во една далечна земја на езера и шуми со студени зими“.

Со други зборови, природните богатства не можат да објаснат зошто Македонија е полоша од Финска денес. Ниту пак, климата. Финска има долги, темни и студени зими. Тогаш морето, главниот начин на транспорт, замрзнува во 90 проценти па мора вештачки да се одрзмнува за да може да биде функционално. Оваа клима претставува сериозно ограничување во земјоделството. Во северниот дел снегот ја покрива земјата дури 22 дена.

Успехот не е ниту прашање на суровини. Во споредба со своите соседи, Норвешка и Русија, Финска има ограничена природни ресурси, настрана шумите од бор и смрека  кои покриваат половина од територијата. Поради студот, овде се е поскапо – од изградба на транспортни мрежа до фабрики за греење. Во 1918 година Финска уште беше првенствено земјоделски општество. Половина од нејзиниот БДП добиени од земјоделството. Повеќето не-земјоделски активности се фокусирани на дрво и пулпа.

А геополитиката? И дали балканските нации не се подеднакво „проколнати“ со својата географија?

Всушност, и геополитиката во Северна Европа во 20 век не е баш за оние со слабо срце. Со векови контролата врз Јужна Финска е од стратешко значење во големите борби за власт: помеѓу Шведска и Русија во 19 век; помеѓу Германија и Советскиот сојуз во 20 век.

Финците, исто така, се соочуваат со уште еден предизвик познат на балканските народи: јазичен конфликт. Со векови па до модерната ера, финскате елита зборуваше шведски. Финска икона од 20 век, генералот Густаф Манерхајм или финскиот ататурк – зборуваше многу подобро шведски од фински. На Финска и треба време за нејзината култура да биде признаена дури и од своите наблиски соседи, Швеѓаните.

Финците добиваат еднаков статус во администрацијата со Швеѓаните единствено во 1863. Кога еден барон во 1884 година на имот на благородништвото ќе се обрати на фински, тоа ќе предизвика сеопшт бес. Во 1880 помалку од една третина од училиштата се на фински јазик. Во 1900 тие се само две третини.

Реалноста на неодамнешното економско минато на Финска почива на длабока сиромаштија. Финците се соочуват со катастрафални времиња на глас во 1860 од кој што стотици илјади умираат. Слоганот по кој се живее во 1860 гласи „Природата го истура бесот врз нашиот народ. Емигрирај или умри!“ На почетокот на 20 век Финска е дом на земјоделци без земја и безимотни работници. почетокот на 20 век Финска беше дом на многу станари земјоделците и Безимотните работници. Во 1910 година повеќе од половина од фармите се помали од пет хектари, односно помали од минимумот со кој според прописите на Сенатот може да добијат субвенции. Ова ги потхранува политичките тензии и ги зголемува фрустрациите. Финските сиромашни селани се подготвени да ја излеат одмаздата кон побогатите земјоделци, па сето ова води до граѓанска војна веднаш по независноста во 1917 година.

Историјата на раната финска демократија е во знакот на конфликтите. Веднаш штом станува независна од руската импреија, Финска се втурнува во граѓанска војна помеѓу „Црвените“ и „Белите“. Исходот од војната само потврди дека германските трупи неминовно доаѓаат во Хелсинки. По инвазијата од страна на Русија во 1939 година, Финска беше принудена да ја отстапи територијата на посилниот сосед и да прифати поместување на 400.000 бегалци од Карелија. Потоа следи катастрофалниот сојуз на финската демократија со германските нацисти кога заедно се втурнуваат во „света војна„ за завземање на Карелија. Ова доведе од друга загуба на советсктите војници во 1944. Следи уште една војна против германските војници во Лапонија. На овој начин, во правата половина на 20 век Финците се бореа во три војни.

По втората светска војна Финска мораше да плати огромни репарации кон Советскиот сојуз. Повоена Финска беше принудена да расели стотици илјади, а остана и надвор од маршаловиот план и не доби американска помош. Финска дури не се ни приклучи кон Советот на Европа се до мај 1989 година.

По втората светска војна или непосредно пред навидум невозможната трансформација на грдото пајче во величествен лебед, финските лидери решаваат да ги напуштат сите поголеми геополитички аспирации. Тие се откажуваат од таканаречениот “Концепт на Голема Финска.” Нивните лидери сега го дефинирани финскиот национален карактер преку прагматизам. Манерхајм, генералот кој тогаш станува претседател, го предводеше патот:

“Манерхајм сфати дека Финска веќе не би можеле да биде бастион за судирите помеѓу христијанската цивилизација и варварските орди на болшевизмот. Немаше повеќе простор за крстоносните војни против исконските непријатели. Наместо тоа, имаше трезвени благодарност за тоа што ако Финска требаше да преживее и да успее како едно демократско општество, тогаш мораше да најде начин мора да опстојува во мир со џиновскиот источен сосед”, ќе забележи авторот Синглтон во книгата.

Синглтон ќе ја опише оваа точка на пресврт како вртење грб на романтичниот национализам.

Финска мораше „да се соочи трезвено и без илузии со мрачната вистина дека единствениот пат кој опстанокот води во обратна насока од оној кој претходно го следеа. Романтичниот национализам од 19 век кој одигра витална улога во формирањето на финскат нација повеќе не можеше да понуди ниту комфорт ниту поддршка“

Сега финските елити се фокусирани на растот, и покрај несигурното геополитичко соседство. Земјата систематски ги развива своите компаративни предности од дизајнирање на апарати за домаќинство до развивање дрвни продукти. Синглтон ќе забележи:

„Емерсон сигурно би можел да мисли на Финска кога рекол дека „ако човек може да ја напише подобрата книга или да направи подобра стапица за глувци од неговиот сосед, тој, дури и ако ја изгради својата куќа длабоко во шумата, светот ќе бетонира патека до неговата врата“.

Клучно за една од „подобрите стапици за глувци“ е финскиот образовен систем сам по себе. Во 1952 година 9 од 10 Финци имаат завршено само основно образование (7 или 9 години). Кон крајот на 1970 три четвртини од возрасните Финци имаат завршено само базична форма на образование. Финска беше извозник на работна сила се до 1980 кога  бројот на Финци кои работат во Шведска изнесуваше 750.000 луѓе или најголемата емигрантска заедница во таа држава.

Да се образоваат луѓето најдобро што може, да се позајмуваат најдобрите идеи од другите и да се мотивираат луѓето во воспитно-образовниот процес….сето ова е центарот на финскиот идентитет. Класичната финска литература е интерпретирана токму во ова светло. Финската национална приказна е приказна за триумфот на образованието над сиромаштијата, триумф на умот над материјата. На наставниците во основните училишта се гледа како на носители на националните идеи. Тоа е наратив граден на морална бајка. Дури и финското национално движење од 19 век е интерпретирано низ образованието. Дури и на приказната од финскиот национален еп „Калевала“ се гледа како на славење на менталната агилност. Првата финска новела „Седум браќа“ е четиво кое ја слави вредноста на учењето.

Една симболична не-херојска приказна за креативноста насочена кон подобрувањето на животот доаѓа од учителката Маију Гебхард. Таа пресметала дека финските домаќинки поминуваат 30.000 часови од животот во перење и сушење на садови или еднакво на 3.5 години од нивниот живот. Така таа го измисли плакарот за сушење алишта кој денеска е инсталиран во секој фински дом. Финската фондација за иновации ова го смета за еден од најзначајните фински изуми на милениумот.


Креативност и секојдневен живот


Всушност, финската приказна е како бајките – од партали до богатство. Како детските приказни за обичните луѓе кои се отпишани од сите како помалку вредни, а кои одеднаш застануваат под светлото на сцената и се испоставува дека се исклучителни.

Се уште не знам многу за Финска, но чувствувам дека нивната приказна вреди да се раскажува на Балканот. Во овој пост-хероиче наратив на една малечка земја, образованието се смета за тајната состојка на националната трансформација, еквивалент на спанаќот кој го трансформира Попај морнарот или магичната ламба на сирачето Аладин.

Тука е и централната лекција која нема ништо заедничко со бајките. Штедење на време и напор преку едноставни изуми за секојдневниот живот, креирање елегантна керамика за домаќинствата, промислување на сите аспекти на образовниот систем – сето ова бара време, но и уште повеќе внимание. Фокус. Фокус од страна на лидерите, интелектуалците и обичните луѓе.


Скопје 2014

А сега погледнете го Западен Балкан низ призма на раниот 21 век.

Погледнете ги нештата со кои се опседнати лидерите во Скопје. Големи престижни проекти на кои се фокусирани нивното време и внимание.(Да, некој можеби ќе рече „ете и тие позајмуваат нешто од соседите Грци, но, сепак, модерна Грција не е Финска со причина).

Погледнете ги нештата за кои дискутираат интелектуалците, академиците и политичарите во Босна и Херцеговина. Многу ретко тие дебати се за „правање подобра стапица за глувче“, а многу повеќе – ако постоеја бајки ние ќе имавме нов устав и сите одеднаш ќе бевме среќни.

Погледнете како се насочени времето, енергијата и парите на Косово. Колку споменици на војници се направија…а колку се направија библиотеки каде што би можеле да се образоваат идните генерации?

Веројатно сега можеме да дадеме одговор на прашањето зошто Македонија не е Финска. Недостига национален наратив кој ќе го слави прагматизмот, обичниот човек, образованието и просветителите како нациоални херои на иднината. Македонија застана онаму каде што беше Финска пред еден век во однос на зајакнувањето на позицијата на жената. Македонија не бега од националниот романтизам, туку напротив, се уште го слави.

Еден ден на Западен Балкан ќе се појават лидери со кои ќе се гордееме, лидри кои ќе градат музеи на науката и дизајнот наместо храмови на мртви воини и бандити. Но, кога ова ќе се случи, останува да видиме.