Task Forces

27.12.2019.

UNITED, WE WILL BE STRONGER AND BETTER PEOPLE

by Prof. Slavenko Grgurevic PhD, President of EUROBALKAN, Association for research and development, EWB Member

Conference WESTERN BALKANS AFTER SOFIA SUMMIT 

Sofia, November 8, 2019

UNITED, WE WILL BE STRONGER AND BETTER PEOPLE

Towards Europeanization and Euro-Atlantic integration

by

Prof. Slavenko Grgurevic PhD, President of EUROBALKAN, Association for research and development

For more than twenty years I have worked as an expert in the field of social, economic and political integration of the Region - but this is still one of the first conferences with a clear key message: towards a united Region. The highest compliments on this excellently organized meeting with a great mission with no alternative: a united Region.

Even a year and a half after the Western Balkans summit in Sofia, I have not noticed any significant changes in the integration of the Region. Three questions or problems are related to this: a) How have we, the citizens of the Western Balkans understood the essential idea of Europe and the West? b) What are the main constraints in the necessary Europeanization and Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans? c)

What is Serbia’s role in that process?

Firstly, let me remind you: the story of European culture and heritage is a story of European identity. Openness and the permeation of cultural diversity are triumphant accomplishments of European civilization. Cultural changes birth physical changes by constant circulations of information. Human values, solidarity, spiritual and moral growth reflect on our common future for the long term. That is the foundation upon which European civilization was built and the path to strengthening the European idea and the Europeanization of humankind. Europe's historic progress and its triumphant advancement have been developing through new and constant disturbances and creative antagonisms. Complementarity, competition and antagonism are the main components of, typical European, organized anarchy. That is written by the great European philosopher Edgar Morin in his famous book "Thinking European". Europe has created an original civilization whose essence is spirituality, diversity, humanism and democracy. Unlike the vast Asian countries - Europe is the universe of small local, regional and national fragments. Europe is and will be a polycentric cultural reality in all aspects. Therefore, I felt free to call it the model of Europeanization of mankind.

This is not eurocentrism, but the richness of all-roundedness which is at the core of Man’s spirit and destiny. There lays the strength of the resilience and universality of the European idea. Europe may be in turmoil today, however, its identity and continuity isn’t, nor will it ever be.

William Mallock, an English author, rightly identified the relevance of culture to understanding the European idea.

"Culture is not a substitute for life, but the key to it."

Therefore, democracy, knowledge - innovation, culture and rationalism are main pillars of European civilization and the meaning of the West.

Our political affiliation to the values and institutions of democratic societies is the pledge of our stability and future prosperity.

Secondly, for the necessary Europeanization and Euro-Atlantic integration of all Western Balkan countries we need people who are honest and good in essence, highly educated professionals, democracy oriented, great masters of building, architects of new institutions and successful leadership. Many people in Western Balkan countries in positions of authority are not of that variety, but rude populists, people in tight circles, or part of criminal and corruption circles. They are providers of non-European authoritarian influences and putting the young Western Balkans democracy at risk. Emergent leaders, the prime minister of North Macedonia and the winner of the last Kosovo elections - mr Aljbin Kurti, are a new hope in the fight against crime and corruption and the fight for strengthening the very young democracy of the region. The greatest problems in the Western Balkans are crime and corruption, which can bring an end to our young democracy and bring utter destruction of the Western Balkans society in the future.

Thirdly, what is the role of Serbia?

The process of Serbia's integration into the EU is going very slow and is proving difficult - for the last 10 years Serbia opened 17, but only closed 2 chapters. The process of implementing European values, standards and policies is almost non-existent because Serbian leadership mostly focuses on cooperation with Russia and China. Nevertheless, 53% of Serbian citizens preferred the EU, 25% are against it and 12% are abstained.

Serbia is a divided society with many social, economic and political problems.

A state captive to the strong embrace of crime and corruption, characterized by the absence of the rule of law, efficient institutions and the absence of equal treatment of all citizens and those associated with authority and with political privileges.

There is an obvious problem with freedom of the press and the absence of a system and policies of sustainable economic development.

The business ambient for domestic small and medium enterprises is poor. Even if there are some positive economic results (e.g. building infrastructure, positive financial budget) - without efficient institutions and the rule of law, these results are not sustainable.

The social situation as a whole is very unsustainable - more than 50.000 young highly educated people per year migrate from Serbia to the West. Thus, Serbia and other Western Balkan countries are regressing to apathy and the darkness of the XIX century.

The normalization of relations between Belgrade and Prishtina broke down one year ago.

Rather than following the examples of their neighbors (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania), Serbian foreign policy is not as clear. Small countries must attend to there one business and not interfere in the affairs of the countries which hold great power. This is not serious ambitions. But, the last joint initiative of Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania to create a "mini Schengen" is a good step towards strengthening regional integration. However, this initiative has many political and other limitations.

In my book "EU, Serbia and the Western Balkans - towards the rule of law and good neighborly cooperation: private entrepreneurship, education, culture” (published by Eurobalkan in 2018) - which is the end result of a strategical project of support from the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria to Serbia and the countries of the Western Balkans, all relevant problems and directions of the future development of Serbia and the Western Balkans are explained in detail (along with extensive statistical data).

Let me conclude. Western Balkan is a part of Europe, but we must catch up to Europe and build our future ourselves, united. It will take time. If will build our common future in three directions: a) create the rule of Law and efficient institutions; b) business and economic cooperation; c) education and interculturalism - we will succeed. Just as a beautiful garden contains different kinds of plants that are cultivated in a similar manner, different cultures linked together by the same economy create a fertile environment for the growth of all. Our Region - this enormous cultural wealth is invisible and untapped. We have lived in this beautiful landscape, with great natural resources, for more than 15 centuries and yet, the people are in constant conflict - blasphemy, distress, poverty… For how long? How much more?

Allow me to leave you with one last sentence:

"Strength and power are in the hands of strong and rich - but even the poorest can acquire knowledge and that is why knowledge is a more democratic source of power" (Alwin Toffler, "The War and Anti-War")