Central Europe Activ

The Foreign Policy Passport blog has an excellent review on the lengthy United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report on the changing nature of criminal activities in the Balkans. These countries that are struggling with an economic transition at the same time with a post-war trauma have lower violent crime rates than Western Europe but increasingly make their living on supplying Western demand for drugs, sex and low-pay immigrant workers. The document is a compelling case for the swift integration of the Western Balkan countries into the EU and NATO and not the other way around.

The lack of profitable economic activities in a war-struck, collapsed planned economy makes an ideal environment for highly organized crime. The lack of proper stately and municipal institutions, especially in territories where sovereignty is disputed, like in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo gives rise to alternative, illegal institutions that provide the population with work, income and basic social security. This worrying trend will be more and more difficult to revert as the case of Southern Italy has proven in the 20th century. Two data sets make the case for this: the Balkan countries have much stronger police forces in sheer numbers than Western European ones still crime victims turn to the police for justice significantly less often.

Crime and victims reporting

I strongly believe that any conclusion that would segregate and not integrate the region into Europe is mistaken. These worrying criminal patterns cannot be distanced from the European Union, because this is not an exogenous criminal activity: it is almost entirely funded and driven by European Union demand. For instance, the turnover of heroin trade is valued at $25 to 30 billion – more than the annual GDPs of Albania, Macedonia, and Moldova put together. The drugs go to the EU, the money comes from the EU and not the other way around.

I think that enlargement is the only possible solution to this deepening problem. Depriving Kosovo of a proper statehood and bullying Macedonia are unacceptable because they have a bad affect on the whole of Europe. The Balkan countries need rule of law, a properly functioning legal economy, market and transport infrastructure to export their legal products. In a traumatized post-war economic transition society help to build up a new economic and social model can only come from the European Union. The type of criminal activities are exactly the ones than could be much better tackled within the Schengen zone than locally, because they have a European-wide, international nature. I think Europe should concentrate some of its resources that is spend on fighting drugs, illegal work and prostitution at home to give an alternative to the middlemen in South Eastern Europe.

Link: (pdf download) . Further posts on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia.

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  1. I think Daniel forgets that the EU and its member states have pasively and actively destabalized the region for decades. Starting from the defection of Germany from EU policy in its premature recognition of a Bosnia to the latest recognition of a province. Not to mention the bullying of Maceodonia by Greece with the support of France. The Balkans were and are probably better of without a EU policy then with this blundering. Oh well, at least it created a job market for white highly-educated conflict managers and analysts.

  2. Maarten vd Berg – I disagree with most of your comment, I think you turn the reasoning upside down. The fact that Germany or Greece could make unilateral steps that destabilized the region (although I do not think this was the case with Bosnia-Herzegovina) is a counterargument to your comment. Should they step in line, these problems would not persist.

    I agree with the concept that EU-Balkans relations is a two-way street and the EU is a cause of Balkans tragedies with bad national external relations and a high level of market demand for illegal drugs and prostitutes.

  3. Daniel,

    You dont think that recognizing a country with no constitution, no institutions, no police force, where half of the population is against independace, was premature ?

    Oh well, it gives just yet another two highly educated white persons to analyze something.

    At the meantime, at ground zero- I think i have thousands of deaths supporting my argument that Bosnia was recognized prematurely.

  4. Maarten, I’m afraid you have a very simplified view on sovereignty. What about the other half of the country? The former sovereign state did not really fit in with their lives, literally speaking.

    I wonder if you mean Ground Zero in New York. If you connect that with Bosnia I think you make a bigger sweeping claim than Mrs Clinton. Bosnia and the US are very-very far away from each other.

  5. Daniel, Maarten,

    If I may join your discussion – and maybe Stanley should also – recognizing the existence of a nation and allowing the creation of a sovereign state is two different process.
    Regarding the situation in Kosovo, well, the EU has no clear position on its status. Even if it has decided to deploy a certain ‘European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo’ to ensure a continuation of international civil presence in Kosovo. Personally, I think the EU should be even more involved – with NATO – in the Balkan. Let us remind that developping peace, stability and prosperity are the “ground zero” of the EU.

  6. Pierre-Antoine, I fully agree with you: the existence of a nation and the creation of a sovereign state are very separate issues. I think the key to the whole Balkans is to separate this issues very well. The history of the last century with a number of wars teaches us that there are no viable nation states in the region.

  7. Pierre-Antoine, Daniel,

    Ground Zero is a term used to descripte a situation at the most elementary level, not specifically New York.

    Sovereignty and nation building can be divided analitically, just as us white, male, highly educated analysists do in this case. But it cannot be divided in the hearts and minds of the Balkan people. For that reason the Albanians dont feel at ease in Serbia, nor do the Serbs in Kosovo, or the Serbs in Bosia for that matter.

    For that same reason, a federal or regional solution has worked in the past. Nation states are bad projects on the Balkans unless you have succesfully ethnically clensed your nation, as for example Croatia has.

    Sovereignty on the Balkans finds it source for the most part from the outside. Now please complete the equation; If the peoples from the Balkan experience sovereignty and the nation state as the same thing, and sovereignty in the case of the Western Balkans largely depends on outside factors (EU, Germany, US, UN). What would the role of the international community be for the stability in the region ?

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