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Stubbs The Future of Enlargement: preparing for a Thessaloniki II? Critical thoughts

Stubbs The Future of Enlargement: preparing for a Thessaloniki II? Critical thoughts

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Published by Paul Stubbs
Paper on EU Enlargement and the Western Balkans
Paper on EU Enlargement and the Western Balkans

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Published by: Paul Stubbs on Mar 28, 2013
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The Future of Enlargement: Preparing for a „Thessaloniki II“
? Critical thoughts
Position Paper prepared for Friedrich Ebert Stiftung by
Paul Stubbs
 March 2013
In October 2009, ahead of the Swedish Presidency of the European Council, Christophe Solioz and Iwere asked by the
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
to prepare a short position paper advocating for a
„Thessaloniki II“
type summit and process to provide much needed momentum to the EU accessionprocess for the countries of the Western Balkans. I attach that paper as an Appendix here, if only toremind us how rarely these initiatives succeed, as well as to caution against the lack of 'institutionalmemory' amongst international actors working on these issues. Subsequently, we co-edited a book'
Towards Open Regionalism in South East Europe' 
which attempts, quite explicitly, to explore SouthEast European regional co-operation
of the dominant frames in which it is usually discussed:i.e. in terms of international relations between sovereign nation states and as a conditionality in theprocess of accession to the European Union. The approach we took in the text, no doubt, reflectedour own disillusionment with the kind of approach which seems, at least at first glance, to be behindthis FES initiative, as yet another attempt to breathe life into a rather dead process.Frankly, I am increasingly concerned, even annoyed, by the sort of symbiotic, some might sayincestuous, set of relationships between international organisations promoting the accession of theWestern Balkans countries and a new breed of South East European 'think tanks' and 'policy experts'which all too often reinforce each others' view of the world and reproduce a rather static, out-dated,and unproductive 'commonsense' even whilst suggesting to each other, and anyone else who willlisten, and those numbers are dwindling, that there is a need for 'innovative' and 'creative' thinking. Iagreed to participate in this initiative only because I do think that conditions, both within the EU, andin the Western Balkans, are now different, both as a result of the deep economic, political and socialcrisis in Europe and in the context of Croatia's accession on 1 July 2013 and, therefore, that it mightbe worth one more attempt to approach these issues from 'outside the box' as it were. Hence, mycomments below, although loosely following the 3 framing questions provided in the concept note,take the liberty of trying to widen the debate and address aspects which are rarely discussed withinthe framework of the sterile commonsense noted above.
Enlargement as a Challenge for the EU and its Member States
The current crisis of the European Union has gone far beyond 'enlargement fatigue' which, in
its new form („look what happens when we allow in countries which are not ready formembership“), is merely a
symptom of wider events. The current leaders of Germany, theNetherlands and some other countries, with their allies in parts of the Commission (notablyDG ECFIN), the IMF, and the European Central Bank, are trying to change, rapidly andwithout any real political debate or dialogue, much less a recognition of the need forconsensus, both the nature of the relationships between Member States
the EuropeanCouncil
the European Commission
and the European Parliament, and introduce deep and'locked in' conditionalities regarding fiscal restraint and austerity.
Of course, the issues which Angela Merkel and her allies are addressing are real. My point isthat the way they are addressing them, and their choice of priorities - why not focus as muchor more on inequalities between member states, on the erosion of the European SocialModel, and so on - have massive implications for the political and social stability of a numberof member states and of the EU as a whole. This culminates, of course, in the German
Dr Paul Stubbs, Senior Research Fellow, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia. pstubbs@eizg.hr 
Stubbs, P. and Solioz, C. (eds.) (2012)
Towards Open Regionalism in South East Europe
. Baden-Baden: Nomos.
Page | 2Foreign Ministry commissioning its own Progress Reports on Croatia, setting aside long-termGerman-Croatian friendship, because it did not trust DG Enlargement whose 'vested interest'in enlargement, it was argued, tended to skew reports positively. Having, previously, beenquite interested in the idea of a 'multi-speed Europe', I now think that it is merely shorthandfor the renewed economic hegemony of a particular so-called 'European core' and thedisciplining, politically and socially, of the so-called 'periphery'. The need for a new balancebetween the economic, political, environmental and social dimensions of the EU; the need tomove 'beyond GDP', and the importance of putting issues of transnational redistributionback on the agenda, all signalled by the now marginalised Europe 2020 strategy, is neededmore than ever, in my view.
Another frequently articulated German Foreign Ministry statement is „never again Bulgariaand Romania, and never again Cyprus“, the latter being expressed in terms of 
the unresolvedissue of sovereignty, long before the recent 'pilot project' attempt - presumably aimed todestroy Cypriot capitalism forever - of a tax on savers. What this framing does, however, is topromote ever more complex and stricter conditionalities prior to membership, combiningthe
with opening and closing benchmarks. As the Croatia case shows, even thisheightened technical conditionality does not preclude political blockages either by widerforces (the ICTY for example) or over narrower, bilateral, issues (Slovenia blocking, mostnotably).
Is Croatia more ready for EU membership in 2013 than she was earlier? On the positive side,there are a lot of people in jail who might not have been had the process been speeded up,although it could be argued that earlier EU membership might have made it harder, noteasier, for them to engage in corrupt activities for quite so long. We certainly have lots of nice action plans, most sleeping peacefully in drawers, but one or two perhaps having morelife in them than normal. And we have destroyed, sorry restructured, the shipbuildingindustry and made sure that neighbours in Bosnia-Herzegovina know that there is a borderbetween us. According to the Commission, Croatia has completed the reforms required bythe
; according to many of my colleagues in the Institute of Economics, she has noteven begun reforms necessary to become a truly functioning market economy (theyconveniently forget the Europe 2020 idea of a 'social market economy'). After all, the newhegemony and EU-IMF meta-critical partnerships are inducing a certain kind of imposedreform, with disastrous consequences, in Greece, Italy, Romania, Spain, and Portugal. I thinkwe need to revisit the question 'what is really needed to be a functioning member of the EU',and strip away much of the technical complexity which has gradually been introduced.
For me, a 'multi-speed' European Union is less welcome than a kind of reinvigorated 'multi-level' or, better phrased, 'multi-scalar' Europe. A clearer recognition that a European projectwill always consist of a kind of variable geometry of more or less dense nodes and networksis needed, decentring the sovereign nation state and, above all, moving away from a rigidbinary between who is in and who is out. This might be productive of new sets of solidaristicinter-relationships between a much wider range of actors and initiatives. This is already therein embryonic form, with myriad regional, cross-border, twinning and civil society partnershipschemes. These need to have new life breathed into them, to be less technical and, perhaps,even less rule-bound, and, certainly, need to be framed in terms which go way beyond 'is thisin the immediate economic interests of the EU core'. This could be one way of ensuring aradical change in the nature, scale and reach of the European project.
Accession as a Challenge for the Countries of the Western Balkans
Are the Western Balkan states so very different from the, themselves variegated, newMember States from Central and Eastern Europe? If we leave Albania out the others, asformer Yugoslavia, in 1990, were, of course, much more ready to join the EU than their CEEneighbours. The wars and their legacies have, of course, changed things but, even in terms of 
Page | 3the much overused idea of 'democratic deficits', one would be hard pressed to argue thatCroatia, for example, is in a worse situation than contemporary Hungary. In some ways, anunderstandable focus on re-creating central states in sovereign post-Yugoslav Republics,serves to limit the possibilities for lower level democratic change. If we look only ateconomics, bearing in mind that I would question the use of GDP as an indicator of anything,a recent paper has shown that recently, for South East Europe, the message is that thefurther away from EU membership the better, in terms of growth at least.
The attraction of the EU is in danger of being lost, if new benefits are not quickly added.
It is certainly the case that all the external efforts at 'state-building' and, more recently,'region-building', in South East Europe have resulted in very little change 'on the ground'.They have succeeded in producing a kind of instrumentalisation of politics in which, forexample, the political leadership in Montenegro offers to organise a gay pride parade, toshow how Montenegro is 'not like Serbia'. It is also far too easily forgotten that an alternativeto nationalist politics which did exist in much of the former Yugoslavia has now beenchannelled into an NGO elite that prefers to complain directly to Brussels rather than buildan internal constituency for change. Of course, a greater voice, at all levels, for suchgroupings, and the encouragement of EU wide networking by a wide range of groups, isneeded, but not at the expense of old fashioned local politics.
In my view, the Western Balkans could contribute to a transformation of the growthparadigm, a new model which I hesitate to call 'de-growth'
, but will anyway. Let us notforget that the scenario for most of South East Europe since 2000 was jobless, unsustainable,import-seeking, consumption maximizing growth followed by deep structural crisis which,with all due lead and lag, appears to have severe and structural impact on unemployment,decimation of industrial production and, by implication, further contributing to a view thatthe most desired employee is the state or the local municipal authorities.
Too little of the
recent thinking on ‘a new
growth model for South East Europe’ has discussed
the ecological dimensions
whilst green growth is part of the EU 2020 agenda it has reallynot received the attention it deserves in the EU or in the SEE region. Why not focus more on
‘green jobs’, i.e.
low-carbon, low-energy, low raw material jobs and jobs which protect andrestore eco- systems and bio diversity and/or minimize the production of waste andpollution? Why not seize the opportunity to reward early adopters of green technology? Canthe decimations of deindustrialisation be turned into a comparative advantage in a regionwith perhaps both the most intact, and therefore most vulnerable, eco-system in widerEurope? Why not be leaders in ecological food production, forest preservation, electricityproduction from wind and sunlight and, of course, sustainable tourism? All of this isimportant, in and of itself, but what is needed more than ever are new kinds of sustainableand redistributive eco-social policies which
can achieve ecologically beneficial and socially just impacts promoting new patterns of production, consumption and investment, changingproducer and consumer behaviour while improving well-being, and ensuring a fairerdistribution of power and resources
Bartlett, W. and Prica, I. (2012)
The variable impact of the global economic crisis in South East Europe.
Paperson South Eastern Europe, 4. LSEE - Research on South Eastern Europe web: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/48037/ 
“a degrowth strategy implies a structured process
of socially sustainable and equitable reduction in theamount of materials and energy that a society extracts, processes, and eventually returns to the environmentas waste
Kallis, G. (2011). ‘In defence of degrowth’,
Ecological Economics,
Vol.70, pp. 873-880 
Although cf. Domazet, M., V. Cvijanović and D. Dolenec (2012) ‘What Kind of Grwoth, What Kind of Degrowth:
Gough, I. (2013) 'Eco-social Policy', draft paper.

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