Central Europe Activ

The Central European Initiative is a loose co-operation of 18 states in the region. Given the heterogenity of the group, its summit are never spectacular, and guest lists and the not present members are almost as interesting as the statements. The 15th summit had an important guest: Abdullah Gül, the president of Turkey.

The Initative either sails on a strong current or rather successful: starting with a single EU member state in 1989 to promote European integration, it has now eight member which have become member in the meantime. It appears to be a very clever move from the Turkish diplomacy to come close to this group. The eight EU-CEI members are strong supporters for further enlargement, and they are also proven to be able to conclude membership deals with the EU. Although Turkey have not received a formal endorsement on the summit, it looks that it can claim a minor victory in the four decade long quest for EU membership. Turkish President Abdullah Gul, said that the region of South Eastern Europe would be stable only if it was integrated into the EU and NATO. As an important NATO member, and probably the most important country behind the EU-proposed Nabucco energy pipeline, he might have found important allies.

The fact that the 15th summit was placed in Macedonia was extremely lucky. This small former Yugoslavian state, which was denied access from NATO by its Southern neighbor, Greece, may very easily destabilize without a clear future that is shared by its citizens. The fact that Macedonia hosted such an international event boosted the morale of its embattered diplomatic force.

Obviously Kosovo was high on the agenda. Although the Kosovar government could not participate formally in the meeting, because Serbia had not recognized it as a state. Although this upset the government of Kosovo, I think the Macedonian government, which was responsible for the organization of the summit, made the right decision. An invitation to Kosovo would have meant the absence of Serbia, and the very likely absence of Romania and Slovakia. The Slovak president, Ivan Gasparovic said that Kosovo remains the “hottest topic” regarding peace in the Western Balkans. This view would be very difficult to challenge and I think that it was important to keep Serbia on board.

Ohrid summit in 2008.

The leaders of 19 Central and southeastern European countries agreed Saturday that European Union integration will not be complete unless all Western Balkan states are included. “There is no viable political alternative to the integration into the European Union for the candidates and aspiring states,” Macedonian president Branko Crvenkovski said after the two-day summit at the lake resort of Ohrid. “However, the region is still not irreversibly on the road to Europe” – writes the IHT.

I think the most important message of the summit is that it called for the integration of all Balkan countries into the EU and NATO, which is hardly a surprise (even for Serbia) and Ukraine. The debate over Turkish accession has a history of many decades. Ukraine, which has roughly the same population as Spain has been largely overlooked, and the EU has no clear strategy on the former Soviet republic: should it become a member state, and ally or a puffer zone between Russia and the EU? For a number of reasons, the Central European countries seem to have a strong opinion in this matter.

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