It was necessary to understand that the space was getting smaller, or better yet, that the space for the new populism was expanding. For new ease of solution. Nothing was accidental, not even the shooting in the Bosnian Zvornik, nor Macedonian unrest, nor statements about the new big Albanian state, and neither time delay of negotiations with Serbia.
This is why it was one of those tiny statements that are often overlooked, because they are so unusual, so direct and politically immediate, that it was more visible.
A few days ago, the first Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, at the end of another debate, casually added that they were tired of patience with the European Union, because Serbia had invested and achieved a lot, carried out serious economic reforms, started the complex political dialogue with Priština, but was left without adequate response.
Soon after the democratic changes and the takeover of power, then president of the Serbian government, Dr. Zoran Đinđić, met me as the newly-appointed and first Slovenian ambassador. The meeting was held in his working office without unnecessary protocols. This way, we skipped the most of diplomatic mandatory messages, except for the greetings he wanted me to give to Janez Drnovšek and then Minister Pavle Gantar. The then President spoke about some kind of fear, I would say similar fear of tiredness mentioned by Vučić today.
All major political disputes, Đinđić said, have their crucial point on the matter of Serbia’s place, whether it was in the East or the West. We were aware of this in 1998, when the Kosovo crisis was raging again and it became clear that Slobodan Milošević announced war to the complete world. We knew then, he continued, that we had the possibility, indeed a very risky, but still the possibility of investment in the future and unambiguous shift towards the west. I knew that “we can beat the then lord of the state only as his pro-European alternative, because it was the only way to be recognized as a serious political competition.”
He talked about then new political doctrine which was important not only for Serbia, but was actually valid as a rule for the entire Balkans, that the democrats, which seized power after bloody wars in nineties, were able to implement the necessary social reforms. However, that the project is feasible only with the simultaneous promotion of European politics. Therefore, the open possibility of membership of the countries of the region in the European Union was of enormous significance in that period. Reforms would be significantly more difficult to achieve without this instrument because the amount of assurance in the preservation of ancient was substantially larger and more attractive. First of all, with never quite forgotten thesis about the national superiority and national vulnerability.
Both Đinđić, and later State President Boris Tadić, with whom I talked precisely about these matters, knew that it was possible to bypass that buffer zone between Vienna and Ljubljana / now Zagreb too / and Athens, in a European way via Bulgaria and Romania, however, it will remain, as late Đinđić would say, bankruptcy estate of unresolved Balkan crisis, which would be called Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. With a wish to actualize this, a similar statement was sent a few days ago to the Croatian government, over newspaper Bild with indeed large circulation, that they were in serious problems. But let us go back to Đinđić and Tadić.
In order to avoid, they still did not say that back then, European enlargement fatigue, two program theses were formed. First, that the Balkan states must adjust their institutions, economy, finance, and system of justice to European standards, as well as to prevent the growth of illegal economy, organized crime and smuggling. As well as other, that the Balkan states have to establish cooperation in the region and to demonstrate not only that they knew how to solve their daily problems, but also to establish a regional infrastructure and to cooperate.
It was an optimistic plan that required a precise European response, actually more cooperation and a desire to complete the European space and determine the borders of the European Union. Precisely here lies the punch line of the quoted statement of tiredness from patience with the EU, of the current Serbian prime minister. The late Đinđić expected, a good ten years ago, that the European Union would reaffirm the enlargement strategy and thereby show in which countries it will invest in infrastructure, education, legal reform and internal security.
Because he was simply convinced, same as Tadić, that investments in the stability of the region were the only rational option, because the other was just a new crisis.
Yesterday, so many years later, the similar opinion, on the necessity of searching for new Balkan solutions and risk of new worsening of relations, was repeated by the Luxembourgish Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn.
One of the new Balkan solutions is tighter mutual cooperation of the countries of the region, particularly after the recent tragic events.
Therefore, the today’s state visit of the President of the Serbian Government to Albania was all the more significant. Not only because it is the first visit for the last twenty years, nor because it is so close to the recent conflict in Macedonia, but primarily because of the message that states have to and want to cooperate. A fact understandable in itself mainly, promoted in the region by two more initiatives, first one by Borut Pahor, called Brdo process and then even more specifically, a proposal of the new investment cycle in the region that bears the signature of the most influential women of the world, Angela Merkel.
Both Albanian guest and his host, Aleksandar Vučić and Edi Rama, fully adjusted the meeting to that political scope. They have sent a response to Merkel together with general political work which emphasizes the importance of successful mutual cooperation between the two countries and the importance of stability in the region and its integration into the EU.
They also included in the points of dialogue, in the palace Brigada, the facility on the outskirts of the Albanian capital, cooperation on three major infrastructure projects: arm of the highways that would connect Niš, Priština and Tirana, with connection to the port of Durres and Porte Romano, then the highway Corridor 11, between Belgrade and Montenegro, with access to the Adriatic-Ionian highway and the third one, modernization and renewal of the Belgrade-Bar railway line, again with new connection with the ports of Durres and Porte Romano.
All three projects are part of a strategy of trans-European transport network and will almost certainly be financed from European funds.
Today’s visit is good evidence that it is possible, in spite of such differences, to find agreement and common interests. And even better example, that the tiredness – whether it is called tiredness of the European enlargement or tiredness of patience with the European Union – can be defeated.
Luxembourgish Foreign Minister further added in the quoted statement that Serbia had the right to open one or more negotiation chapters, even in the second half of this year.