Varna, 28 May 2011 - WESTERN BALKANS ON A LONG PATH TO EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION, NATO PA SAYS
The Western Balkan countries have come a long way since the conflicts of the past two decades, but poor governance and slow economic growth are still obstacles to Euro-Atlantic integration, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly heard on Saturday.
Real progress towards improving rule of law and the lives of the people in the Western Balkans will require far deeper reform, genuine regional reconciliation and a more aggressive fight against corruption, according to a report presented to the Assembly’s Economics and Security Committee.
"We should not underestimate the great progress that has been made, but we should recognize that much still needs to be done,” noted the British member of the House of Lords John Sewel, Rapporteur of the Sub-Committee on East-West Economic Co-operation and Convergence, titled The Balkan Economies: Regional Roadblocks,
The sub-committee’s draft report is focused on the challenges confronted by Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yougoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.
The text also explores regional economic trends and the role of the European Union.
The countries of the Western Balkans, although extraordinarily heterogeneous, “are confronted by a range of common challenges,” Lord Sewel said. These include the global financial crisis, which is putting at risk the entire region’s economic convergence with, and therefore its chances of integration into the EU.
In addition to the external financial pressure, these countries are each “in the midst of four different and daunting transformations: a post-communist transition; a post-conflict reconstruction; social, economic and political modernization requiring the mobilization of civil society and the state in radically new ways for the region; and finally each is working toward full integration in Euro‑Atlantic institutions“, the report says.
After presenting a “snapshot of national conditions” in each Balkan country, Lord Sewel’s paper laid out several recommendations. “With the exception of
In the same time, the Euro-Atlantic community needs to focus on the corruption problem in the region and to encourage these governments to take measures, particularly in
Among the fundamental issues thatstillneed to be solved in the region the report notes the problem of Kosovo, that must be resolved to the satisfaction of both Pristina and Serbia, the Macedonian name dispute that must be settled in a fashion acceptable to both Skopje and Athens and the need of a functioning central government in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which will ultimately require a new constitution. Concerning Serbia, the report says that its own integration prospects „will also be enhanced if it captures Ratko Mladic and turns him over to the Hague Tribunal“, something that happened just before the opening of the Spring session. That consequential development will be reflected in the next and final draft of the report, for the October Annual Session of the Assembly in Bucharest, assured the rapporteur.
The most worrying conclusion of the report, as noted the Bulgarian MP Georgi Pirinski during the discussions, was that it is “highly unlikely that the region will return to growth rates achieved in the run-up to the crisis.” This is “bad news as these economies generally need robust growth to converge with their European neighbours and fulfil the rising expectations of their people,” he said.
The issue of economic growth is moving slowly forwards, but not so much progress is made on the various bilateral issues, added Michael Turner, the head of the