Former Yugoslavia – major challenge for EU

Danish Institute for International Studies

The Western Balkans EU-accession
 
The Danish Parliament strongly supports the Commission’s strategy paper. Denmark considers it to be in Europe’s interest to support political and economic development in the Western Balkans. The overall goal for the Danish policy in the region is to contribute to a positive political, economic and social development that helps to promote the region’s accession to the EU and NATO, especially concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. Especially the principle of own merits, clear commitments and clarity concerning the steps of the accession process are emphasised by the Danish Foreign Ministry[1].
 
The Danish Parliament stands by the EU-membership perspective for the countries in the Western Balkans. However, it is clear that the former Yugoslavia has developed into a major challenge for the EU, especially regarding the Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYROM and Albania. Only Croatia and, to a limited extent, Montenegro are considered a ‘success story’[2].
 
Turkish membership
 
While there is broad parliamentary consensus for a future EU-accession of countries in the Western Balkans, the discussion of a Turkish membership is highly controversial. The issue of Turkish membership of the EU has been widely debated in Denmark in 2007. According to the Danish newspaper, Jyllandsposten, an overwhelming majority in the Parliament, including the government and the main opposition parties, supports the negotiations with Turkey, public opposition to Turkish membership has been growing and a large majority rejects membership prospects for Turkey. A poll from July 2007 demonstrated that 55% of the population rejects Turkish EU-membership while only 29% are in favour[3].
 
The right-wing Danish People’s Party rejects the idea of Turkish EU-membership and calls for a halt to the negotiation process as well as a referendum on the matter. The parties supporting the negotiation process reject such a halt to negotiations and emphasize that Turkish membership of the EU has a long timeframe since Turkey must fulfil the Copenhagen Criteria before the question of membership becomes relevant. As such, the EU-spokesperson for the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, has underlined that the Party will only decide its final position on whether or not Turkey should be offered full membership once negotiations are completed (Ibid).
 
Independence for Kosovo
 
The question of Kosovo’s future status was widely debated in Denmark in 2007. The Danish government has clearly asserted that a negotiated solution between Serbia and Kosovo cannot be reached without external help and support[4]. In December 2007, Denmark therefore declared its willingness to back an independent Kosovo even if a UN resolution cannot be agreed upon. The Danish People Party, however, has asserted that independence for Kosovo would be a breach of the UN charter[5].
 
The public debate on the issue has also been extensive. Some have argued that Kosovo is in its full right to demand independence and that such independence is inevitable[6] and that it is time for the EU to demonstrate its ability to speak with one voice if it is to be seen as a credible foreign policy actor[7]. Others have argued that independence for Kosovo could open a ‘Pandora’s box’ of secessions[8], which might increase the risk of conflicts and war elsewhere, for example between Russia and Georgia. In order to avoid this, it is argued that the EU must insist that Kosovo does not unilaterally declare independence.
 
Kosovo is the largest recipient of aid under Denmark’s Neighbourhood Programme. The aid is concentrated on economic development, employment as well as improving the conditions for internally displaced persons, minorities and marginalised groups[9].


[1] The Danish Foreign Ministry, available at: http://www.um.dk/da/menu/Udenrigspolitik/LandeOgRegioner/Europa/Vestlige... (last access: 25.01.08).

[2] Newsletter from the European Commission Representation in Denmark, available at: http://www.ugebrevet-europa.dk/ (last access: 25.01.08).

[3] Jyllandsposten – Flertallet siger nej til Tyrkiet i EU, 3 January 2007, avalilable at:  http://jp.dk/arkiv/?id=992101&jp_user_id=58404G4ABCF9E4648E (last access: 25.01.08).

[4] The Danish Foreign Ministry, available at: http://www.um.dk/nr/exeres/759f003f-9456-435e-a98c-1d333327ec5a.htm (last access: 25.01.08).

[5] Information – Udfordringen Kosovo, 11 December 2007, available at: http://information.dk/151648 (last access: 25.01.08).

[6] Information – Udfordringen Kosovo, 11 December 2007, available at: http://www.information.dk/151648 (last access: 01.02.08).

[7] Information – EU til eksamen, 8 December 2007, available at: http://www.information.dk/151571 (last access: 01.02.08); Weekendavisen – Kulden vokser ved Østfronten, 7 December 2007, available at: http://www.weekendavisen.dk/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071207/SAMFUND0... (last access: 01.02.07).

[8] Eyvind Hvenekilde Seim: Kosovo behøver et historisk kompromis, in: Information, available at: http://www.information.dk/152516 (last access: 01.02.08).

[9] The Danish Foreign Ministry, available at: http://www.um.dk/nr/exeres/759f003f-9456-435e-a98c-1d333327ec5a.htm (last access: 25.01.08).