Holding the Balkans on the Euro-Atlantic course

University of Tartu

The Estonian government’s firm support to enlargement remains unchanged. Estonian officials insist that enlargement should continue according to the principles agreed to in December 2006.[1] A clear accession prospect should be given to candidates and potential candidate countries in order to retain their motivation to carry out political and economic reforms, while also retaining stringent conditionality.[2] Internal reforms, however, are only part of the rationale. The government also argues that „a larger Union of like-minded states will have more influence in the globalizing world and will be in a better position to benefit from globalization.”[3] Assuming a somewhat didactic position in relation to the candidate countries, and emphasizing its own success in carrying out painful reforms, Estonia calls on the candidates to do their homework.
 
With regard to the Western Balkans, the above translates into clear support for the accession of Croatia, and commitment to the idea of holding the Balkan region on a Euro-Atlantic course. The government argues that under the Slovenian presidency, the enlargement process should be accelerated. Estonia has actively supported the conclusion of visa facilitation and readmission agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. It calls on Bosnia and Herzegovina to implement police reform so that Stabilization and Association Agreements could be signed. The government regards Serbia’s continued integration into the European Union as the „key to stable development for Serbia and the entire region.”[4] The outcome of the second round of presidential elections is portrayed as a “choice between two paths—the path to integration and the EU, or the path that continues in relative isolation.”[5] According to Foreign Minister Paet, Serbia should be given „real, genuine support” to help it “overcome the shadows of its past and to foster economic and social development, provided that Serbia begins to fully co-operate with the [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia].”[6]
 
Estonia recognized Kosovo’s independence on February 21, 2008. Over the preceding months, the government had repeatedly expressed its support to the status settlement proposed by UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General Martti Ahtisaari and declared its willingness to recognize Kosovo’s independence, given that all hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement had been exhausted.[7] Foreign Minister Paet emphasized the fact that in its declaration of independence, the Kosovo Assembly confirmed its readiness to implement the Ahtisaari plan, including its provisions for the protection of minorities. Prior to the declaration of independence, statements by Estonia’s top officials revealed a concern about the EU’s ability to retain unity, to assume leadership and launch and run a civilian mission. The unity of NATO and EU is also regarded as an issue of „utmost significance”: Estonian defence forces have participated in the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) since 1999; now, Estonia has pledged to send experts to the EU civilian mission.
 
The question of how the principles of state sovereignty and self-determination of nations relate to one another in this complicated case has been discussed by several experts and commentators in the Estonian media. Independent analysts have been much more ready to acknowledge the moral and legal ambiguity of the case than government officials: some argue that Kosovo’s independence will not rest on the “moral inevitability” of this solution but instead on “the absence of real alternatives.”[8] Others have warned that granting independence to Kosovo will push Serbia too far – perhaps into an ever-closer alliance with an increasingly anti-Western Russia.[9] Not surprisingly, Estonian officials and commentators reject the Russian view, explicitly advanced by President Putin, that the solution of the Kosovo question should be regarded as a universal precedent applicable to solving frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space.


[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Release, “Paet: ELi laienemine peab jätkuma kokkulepitud alustel”, 10.12.2008, available at: www.vm.ee (last access: 04.03.2008).

[2] Priorities of the Estonian Government during Portugese Presidency, 23.07.2007, available at: www.vm.ee (last access: 04.03.2008).

[3] “Summary of the Government’s priorities in the EU during the Slovenian presidency”, available at: www.riigikantselei.ee (last access: 04.03.2008).

[4] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Release, “Paet: Serbia’s Course to the European Union is the key to stable development in the region”, 29.01.2008, available at: www.vm.ee (last access: 04.03.2008).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Release, “Paet: EU must demonstrate genuine support for Serbia”, 19.10.2007, available at: www.vm.ee (last access: 04.03.2008).

[7] Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet to the Riigikogu, 20.02.2007, available at: www.vm.ee (last access: 04.03.2008).

[8] Lauri Mälksoo, ”Kosovo ja enesemääramisõiguse tulevik”, Eesti Päevaleht, 05.07.2007.

[9] Mihkel Mutt, “Serbia liigne nöökimine pole mõistlik”, Postimees, 30.01.2008.