Ambassador Garčević joined scholars and practitioners from Europe and the U.S. to discuss how Russia transforms its soft power into “sharp power,” examining the role of local political players, including the Orthodox Church, Russian or pro-Russian media outlets, economic footprint (energy projects), and defense cooperation with Serbia.
Ambassador Garčević argues that the current political crisis in Montenegro cannot be resolved without more robust EU involvement; however, there does not appear to be an appetite for such intervention on Brussels or Washington’s side.
“Europe in the World” explores the process of European integration from a number of angles: development, humanitarianism, and crisis management; security and defense; migration; enlargement; and energy.
According to Garčević, the EU’s response to insecurity in the Western Balkans speaks more about Brussels’ concern that instability in Ukraine may spill over to the Balkans than the Union’s genuine intention to reinvigorate EU integration of the region.
Ambassador Garčević argued that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a moment for the EU to radically re-evaluate its stagnant enlargement process; he proposed that Brussels develop a multi-step EU integration process, creating intermediate goals before the full inclusion into the Union,
Professors Garčević and Najam joined 47 young diplomats from 32 countries as well as 35 lecturers from Europe and the United States to discuss complex issues of contemporary international affairs such as the war in Ukraine, NATO expansion, and global climate change.
By missing an opportunity to grant the candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina, open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, or grant a visa-free regime for Kosovo, Brussels puts at risk the legitimacy of enlargement in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“I don’t believe that several EU countries would be willing to sacrifice values and the rule of law for the sake of rapid integration of the Western Balkans.”
The EU’s appetite for enlargement has waned, which allows for illiberal tendencies to flourish in the Western Balkans as there is nothing to stop a strong driving force behind them – unconstrained nationalism and populism.
Chinese and Russian approaches to the Western Balkans may appear different at the surface, however, the lasting corrosive effects of their involvement are similar: erosion of weak institutions and legal systems, and a slowing down the progress of the countries from the region towards EU.
According to Ambassador Garčević, both the EU and the Western Balkans states have failed to deliver what they agreed on in Thessaloniki in 2003: the Western Balkan has failed to deliver comprehensive democratic reforms, the EU failed to remain politically committed to enlargement.
During his FAES panel appearance, Ambassador Garčević argues for a new EU enlargement methodology, one that is incremental or gradual and introduces incentives for aspiring countries.
As EU accession is getting more demanding and taking longer, Ambassador Garčević argues that countries in the Western Balkans are made to feel like “hamsters on a wheel,” become low hanging fruit for Beijing and Moscow that promote development and governance models in stark contrast with the EU’s.
Garčević stated that Brussels attempted to breathe life into a dying EU perspective in the region by introducing a new enlargement methodology last year. However, the revised strategy has not renewed hope in the region.
“The prospect of membership, it seems, has never been further away.”
It is foolhardy to think Germany’s presidency of the EU signal a radical shift in enthusiasm for enlargement to the Western Balkans.
Amb. Vesko Garcevic discusses relations between the European Union and the Western Balkans, and the future of EU enlargement.