Europe’s newest state, Montenegro, has just been given the go-ahead for the first step towards EU membership, as Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn agrees with the Montenegrins that a Stabilisation & Accession Agreement could be signed by the end of the year. Rehn is due in Belgrade next, although you’d have to be very optimistic to expect anything concrete.
It certainly looks like a certain theory of post-cold war Europe is being born out. As early as 1996, Tim Garton-Ash was arguing that perhaps the international community’s failure in Bosnia was down to trying too long to keep a unitary state in being, or in slightly different terms, that diplomats tended to assume any move from bigger to smaller units decreased stability. Perhaps it would be better to accept that the genie was out of the bottle and instead seek peaceful separation, with an eventual view to reintegrating all the units into the European Union.
Well, here we are. The last domino has clattered to the ground, and we’re already talking about agreements with the EU. It’s just a pity about the blood and treasure lost before then. Realistically, there’s probably a preliminary, “little EU” stage of regional integration to go through – getting the quango count down somewhat by sharing some of the new “entities” and states’ responsibilities, whilst also starting the process of making the borders less relevant – before looking at EU membership for the lot. Fine. If France and Germany could be in the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation and the European Payments Union by 1948, the ECSC by 1950, NATO by ’55 and the EEC by 1958, thirteen years from the end of the war, surely intermediate integration is possible before 2009 – ten years from war’s end.
The Edwyn Collins option – rip it up and start again – does pose some serious questions. If anything, if peaceful separation was a good idea in 1995-6, it would have been even better in 1992. But equally, if the eventual solution is to get back together and melt the borders in the EU, couldn’t we have skipped the whole horror show? Doug Muir’s last Montenegrin post caused a thread that with luck should yet reach the half century. In that thread, the point was raised that during the 1980s, Yugoslavia – the old full-cream version – actually made noises about joining the EC (as was) before being dissuaded.
A fine counterfactual question, no? What would have happened had Yugoslavia joined the EC?