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Monday, April 22, 2013

The E.U. as Peace-Maker: Bringing in Serbia and Kosovo

Serbia and Kosovo reached an agreement on April 19, 2013 bearing on how much autonomy Kosovo would allow Serb cities in return Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo’s remaining authority in the cities. Kosovo had seceded from Serbia in 2008, and the ensuing conflict kept both states from joining the European Union. As it turned out, the prospect of accession gave both Serbia and Kosovo enough incentive to reach an agreement. Indeed, only a few days after the agreement had been reached, the governments of Serbia and Kosovo approved it. Such swiftness indicates how strong of an incentive accession can be for belligerent republics in Europe. The E.U.’s deployment of this “carrot” is fully in line with the main objective of the European Union: to prevent war in Europe. According to the New York Times, the accord is thus “an important victory” for the E.U.

 
In the wake of World War II, the European Coal and Steel Cooperative was formed in order to keep an eye on Germany’s use of iron, should the Germans seek to re-militarize. The EEC was also formed to obviate war in Europe, and the E.U. inherited this central aim. Accordingly, it is fitting and proper that, as Kosovo’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Petrit Selimi put it, “The incentive of joining the E.U. played a huge role in clinching an agreement.” The E.U. thus played a role in forging greater peace in Europe. In fact, the negotiations took place in Brussels, according to Catherine Ashton, the E.U.’s secretary of state. “It is very important,” she told reporters, “that now what we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for both [Kosovo and Serbia], a step closer to Europe.” Days after the agreement was signed, the European Commission recommended to the European Council  that talks start on Serbia’s accession. Belgrade had “taken very significant steps and sustainable improvement in relations with Kosovo,” the Commission announced. The Commission also noted that as Kosovo had met all its “short-term priorities,” talks toward a Stabilization and Association Agreement, a precursor to Kosovo gaining statehood, should commence.

Bringing both Serbia and Kosovo into the Union would represent a more permanent means of forestalling war in Europe. As this depends too on how much power the E.U. has in reconciling conflicts between the states, giving the federal government sufficient competencies in this regard would also represent a step toward sustained peace in Europe. While the prospect of accession has been shown to be enough of an incentive for a meaningful agreement to be reached, better still is the incorporation of trouble spots into the European Union, where more pressure can be brought to bear on any bellicose states such that any nascent conflicts between them can be peaceably resolved. Indeed, the E.U.’s competency, or enumerated power, to remove state obstacles to a common market is in part geared to forestalling potential conflict between discriminating states. This is also a reason behind the interstate commerce clause in the American system.

Lest a fixation on any of the contemporary crises hitting the E.U. inculcates a pessimism that is destructive to the Union and thus ruinous to its more basic purposes, it should be helpful to keep an eye raised to one of those fundamental aims of the project. Given the two major wars in Europe during the first half of the twentieth century, it is wise to keep perspective regarding the role of the E.U., both directly and indirectly, in obviating war.

Sources:

Dan Bilefsky, “Serbia and Kosovo Reach Agreement on Power-Sharing,” The New York Times, April 20, 2013.

Vanessa Mock and Gordon Fairclough, “Serbia Ready for EU Accession Talks,” The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2013.