While We’re Away

Before we all get caught up in World Cup and ignore everything else for a month, a few items that will be calling for our attention when we get back.

* All of the problems that the EU Constitutional Treaty was supposed to solve are still there, and they still need to be solved. A rotating presidency that a given country holds once every twelve to twenty years is no way to run a railroad.

* Germany and Finland will likely have joint initiatives for EU approaches to Russia, which they will pursue through the year that the two countries hold the Union’s presidency. Expect more of these. In fact, the EU may well develop something like the OSCE’s various troikas, in which the previous, current and incoming officeholders work together to build continuity into rotating positions.

* Ukraine still wants to be a member. As does Turkey. And a passel of smaller countries.

* Belarus is in a “pre-1989 situation,” according to a former Slovak foreign minister who has been active in democracy promotion throughout the region. For his pains, he has been banned from travel to Belarus. Orange methods are not going to topple Lukashenka; it’s time to study up on the Solidarnosc playbook.

* What Lisbon Agenda?

Any other suggestions from the floor?

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, The European Union and tagged , by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

11 thoughts on “While We’re Away

  1. “Belarus is in a “pre-1989 situation,” according to a former Slovak foreign minister who has been active in democracy promotion throughout the region”

    I was in Belarus a few years ago. In fact, it’s a chance that Belarus is only in e “pre-1989” situation. It could be in a “pre-1953” situation…

  2. The Solidarnosc comparison is probably not valid. Solidarity was driven in part by economic issues. But Belarus is in pretty good shape economically! Yeah, it’s poor and backwards, but the economy has been growing, obvious inequality has been curbed, and everyone has a job.

    Note that there’s no remote equivalent to the Catholic Church in Poland. Quite the opposite — the Orthodox hierarchy in Belarus is pretty firmly lined up behind Lukashenko. He’s done a /really/ good job of stigmatizing and marginalizing opposition.

    One thing that people miss about Belarus: Lukashenko is not stupid. He’s seen Serbia, he’s seen Georgia, he’s seen Ukraine, and he’s paid close attention to all of it.

    What might topple him? Russia pulling the plug, first and foremost. Second, economic problems and/or a growing and obvious gap in standards of living between Belarus and all its neighbors. Third, gross arrogance and incompetence… but I view this last as rather unlikely; so far, he’s shown himself pretty sharp.

    My guess? Better than even odds he’ll still be running the place when the next decade begins.

    Doug M.

  3. “A host of smaller countries.”

    The Caucasus trio — Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia — will be particularly interesting. All three have expressed an interest, and Georgia and Armenia seem pretty determined. (Azerbaijan has its oil to play with, so membership is less pressing.)

    Hmm. We have the Western Balkans group (Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, and soon-to-be-sovereign Kosovo) and the Caucasus trio. That’s nine. Turkey, ten; Moldova and Ukraine, twelve. A round dozen.

    Anyone else out there who’s formally expressed an interest?

    Doug M.

  4. What might topple him? Russia pulling the plug, first and foremost.

    The most likely reason Russia might do this is to reunify some of the east slav lands. Do we care enough about Belorussian independence that we bother?

  5. Had a post on the full roster a couple of years back, though I didn’t count Kosovo. The list is here, with the expected date of the first European Parliament elections I expect them to participate in.

  6. While we’re talking EP anyway – do you think it worthwile for the EU to save 200 million euro a year? You can sign the petition to keep the Parlement in Brussels instead of moving it between Brussels and Straatsburg every month…

  7. Doug – the situation has changed slightly since your last post, particularly regarding Croatia, as the EU has become cooler to further expansion.

    I think the list looks more like this (based on first EP election):

    EU-27: The Little Balkan Expansion (2009)
    Bulgaria
    Croatia
    Romania

    EU-29: The Next Balkan Expansion (2014)
    Croatia
    Macedonia

    EU-35: The Ottoman Expansion (2019)
    Albania
    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Kosovo
    Montenegro
    Serbia
    Georgia (perhaps, if it sorts out its SAA by 2010)

    EU-42: Last Call (2024-2029)
    Albania
    Armenia
    Azerbaijan
    Belarus
    Moldova
    Ukraine
    Turkey

  8. > EU-27: The Little Balkan Expansion (2009)
    > Bulgaria
    > Croatia
    > Romania

    1) Bulgaria and Romania are almost certain to join this coming January 1 — 2007, not 2009.

    2) Croatia will not join before 2009. It may join then, but this is probably optimistic (I certainly hope so). I think 2010-2011 are also quite possible.

    3) Three countries would make EU-28, not 27.

    > EU-29: The Next Balkan Expansion (2014)
    > Croatia
    > Macedonia

    4) You have Croatia twice.

    5) Macedonia is going to be the weird man out. They can’t possibly join as soon as Croatia, even if Croatia is delayed until 2011. Other hand, they are well in advance of all their neighbors — Serbia, Albania, Kosovo.

    Barring the unexpected, I would see Macedonia joining in 2012-2015.

    > EU-35: The Ottoman Expansion (2019)
    > Albania
    > Bosnia and Herzegovina
    > Kosovo
    > Montenegro
    > Serbia
    > Georgia (perhaps, if it sorts out its
    > SAA by 2010)

    At this point, we’re getting really contingent and speculative; I hesitate to discuss anything more than 10 years away. Who would have bet, 10 years ago, that the Baltic States would be in and doing very well, and that Romania and Bulgaria would be trembling on the verge?

    Still, I don’t see these states joining at the same time. Montenegro’s in bad shape economically, but they’re way ahead of Kosovo… actually, everyone is way ahead of Kosovo. And I think Turkish membership by 2019 is entirely possible. And if it hasn’t happened by then, it may well not happen at all.

    > EU-42: Last Call (2024-2029)
    > Albania
    > Armenia
    > Azerbaijan
    > Belarus
    > Moldova
    > Ukraine
    > Turkey

    It’s pure speculation at this point. (Also, you have Albania twice.)

    Look, the EU-27 will be a reality next year. Then 28 in another 2-4 years, with Croatia joining around 2010. That’s pretty much a lock.

    After that, though, all bets are off. I think most of the Western Balkan states will eventually get in, sure, but enlargement fatigue, Turkish membership, and the constitutional question combine to make it all really contingent and gnarly.

    Doug M.

  9. A few comments:

    (1) Although the Balkan states are troublesome, they’re relatively small, which should make it easier for them to join, especially if they’re relatively well run and not too poor. Really, all of the ex-Yugos (excl. Slovenia) have fewer people than Romania alone.

    (2) Once Serbia gets rid of Kosovo and (if) it straightens out the war Mladic issue (which is really more a symptom of not being in control of the security forces than about actual justice from an EU point of view) is should be in fairly good shape to join.

    (3) It would be weird if Bosnia wasn’t on track to becoming fit for EU membership after having been run by the EU for almost a decade.

    (4) Montenegro, if it gets it smuggling, corruption and money laundering issues fixed and manages to have at least some turnover in its political system to prove it’s no one-man show it too should be on track.

    (5) Albania, I have no idea. How poor is it?

    (6) Kosovo, let’s see if it becomes a real state at all first (and, if so, what kind).

    (7) Macedonia, I have no idea. How much of a problem is the Albanian separatism going to be?

  10. Doug, I was citing the first European Parliament elections those new EU citizens will be able to vote in. Thus Bulgaria & Romania joining in 2007 puts them in to vote in the 2009 elections. Croatia had better hurry if they want to get in before other bits of former Yugoslavia. On the other hand, plenty of countries have discovered on the road to Brussels that they are not nearly as important as nationalist politicians had led them to believe, and that the single market is much more useful to them than various shibboleths.

    My logic behind the Ottoman Expansion was a bit like the logic of the big ECE round: Poland was the linchpin, and any state as far along as Poland was going to get in. Any round that takes Turkey is also going to take any other state that’s made as much progress as Turkey.

    A quarter-baked thought: The EU might be better off taking in two big states at once, i.e., Ukraine and Turkey. Hmmm…

    I’m also figuring that the institutional questions do get solved. Most everything in the EU does, eventually. With the emphasis on eventually.

    Most of your Macedonia range puts them in line to participate in EP elections in 2014, which was my marker.

    Who would have bet, 10 years ago, that the Baltic States would be in and doing very well, and that Romania and Bulgaria would be trembling on the verge?

    Hmmm … I might well have taken that bet even in ’94. I’ll root around in the archives and see if I have anything written to that effect.

    My basic premise would have been that small polities are easier to fix than big ones, and that the drive away from the USSR was stronger than what happened in Ro and Bul in 89/90, so people were more ready for a significant reorientation.

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