The withdrawal of the UK from the EU is an epoch-making event that will have a long-term impact on the political, economic and security processes in Europe. The effects will be in line with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of Eastern Europe quarter century ago.
As there was no experience with the events similar to the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is no such thing as the UK withdrawal from the EU, which could serve us as a model for behavior and positioning in the aftermath of it. That is why, along with the whole of Europe, we are left to creative solutions, but also to the estimates of the development of different processes in the future.
Balkan countries, i.e. Yugoslavia did not understand the significance and consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall at the moment when it happened. The historical distance of quarter of century says that it was understood only by Slovenia and Croatia, which first moved towards independence. These two countries are the only EU members in the Western Balkans today. Other countries, including Serbia, have been on the road for membership for 13 years, but are away from it for a quite a number of years.
The purpose of this project is to avoid a bad experience from the period of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that Serbia and other Western Balkan countries are actively positioning themselves to avoid bad consequences (for themselves) of the inevitable reorganization of the EU after the Great Britain withdraws.
It turned out that the Union does not have a strategic “crisis plan” in the event that the British decide in the referendum to withdraw. It turned out that they only have a short-term, tactical response, and it comes down to the fact that Britain is asked to start without delay the process of withdrawal. This will be completed soon, but the question is what will then be done by the EU institutions and its remaining members.
What is certain to happen to the European Union is its institutional and constitutive redefining. The most striking conclusion after Brexit is that the EU must change its internal structure in the direction of strengthening the powers of the member states and weakening the “central” decision-making institutions. This is a kind of decentralization, where the basis would be that the main decisions are made by those who have legitimacy – those are representatives elected directly by citizens, and not as until now bureaucrats whose legitimacy has been questioned (Commission, Central Bank …)
We will be present in the future in the decentralization of the EU, a process that is contrary to the prevailing tendencies, which are, to a large extent, verified by the Lisbon Treaty, on the unitarization of the Union.
It is a general assessment that the UK withdrawal from the EU will put the EU’s expansion issue at the sidelines, but at the same time there are chances that this crisis in the functioning of the EU at the same time also means a great opportunity for candidate countries to speed up their European path.
This project is based on this second assessment, which has good grounds. First of all, in the fact that the EU overnight on June 23rd to June 24th 2016, got in the position that there is no “instruction” on how to proceed and therefore it can be opened for constructive solutions.
The countries of the Western Balkans – Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, are the only remaining countries that have a promised perspective for EU membership, and are still on that way. Here, the position of Turkey, which has the same formal position, but also a completely independent and specific path towards the EU, is neglected.
The fact that the Western Balkans is the only non-integrated European space in the EU, which is guaranteed to be that (the Thessaloniki Summit 2003), is the biggest asset to the proposal to accelerate the path to membership.
The asset is also that every EU expansion is in fact a political decision, and for the realization of this project only political solutions and political efforts are required.
The Western Balkans does not offer economic power or political influence as “dowry”, but it becomes very important from the point of view of EU security. As a space through which the greatest security challenges for the EU come from – refugees and terrorism. And besides, the field of Russia’s growing and more open influence, which sees in the Balkans an area through which it can more effectively deal with the EU.
All the countries of the Western Balkans have a strong pro-EU orientation and do not have a serious political force that could lead them to the other side in the near future.
What is WBIN?
The general idea is to offer a completely new agreement to the European Union, which will be used both by the EU itself and the Western Balkan countries individually. It foresees the following:
The countries of the Western Balkans, first of all, without the EU, agree on a joint approach to the EU, which will be required to dramatically speed up the accession process.
The EU will be asked to foresee, in the forthcoming process of general redefining of its organization, the possibility of “Conditional Membership”, which would be open, in reality, only to the countries of the Western Balkans.
“Conditional membership” would mean that the countries of the Western Balkans could be considered as EU members, i.e. to become “tangible” that they are already part of the family. This is not the case now, and according to the existing procedures, it will not be the case at least until 2020. Until then, very negative, and even catastrophic developments for both the Balkans and the EU are possible – from the economic, security, and geopolitical point of view (the influence of Russia).
“Conditional membership” is ONLY a political concept. It provides the countries that have it and their citizens certainty that the work is almost finished, and therefore, the citizens’ support to EU membership is growing inexorably. On the other hand, it gives the European Union the belief that it is still a vital and desirable system, which greatly annuls the serious consequences of Brexit for European enthusiasm.
Countries that receive “conditional membership” enjoy the privilege of actively participating in the work of EU institutions, that they are at the table where decisions are made, and they are not at the table where others decide on them.
They do not ask to “jump the queue” into the EU and therefore do not seek full membership immediately. But they show an ambition to dramatically accelerate the movement towards the EU, because time has become the most important and most risky factor since the UK decided to withdraw from the EU.
This is a fundamentally different concept from the current one (the process of joining through long-standing negotiations and meeting conditions) and is therefore necessary in order to stabilize the European concept after the impact of Brexit.