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Heroes Community > Other Side of the Monitor > Thread: Balkans and the EU
Thread: Balkans and the EU This thread is 3 pages long: 1 2 3 · NEXT»
Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted May 26, 2011 06:38 PM
Edited by Corribus at 18:39, 26 May 2011.

Balkans and the EU

So I saw that Ratko Mladic was finally arrested.  Will Serbia now be admitted to the EU?

More generally:

Seriously, what gives with the Balkans?  They're part of Europe, so why aren't they all in the EU?  Historically, can you explain why there's so much racial and ethnic infighting in the Balkans compared to elsewhere in Europe?  

I know we have a lot of people from that part of the world here. Educate an ignorant American please.

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Zenofex
Zenofex


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Kreegan-atheist
posted May 26, 2011 06:45 PM

That's a huge topic. Where do you want us to begin - the medieval times, the Ottoman rule or the events from XIX century 'till today? There are tons of literature on the matter, written by authors from the Balkans and from the West alike and it only scratches the surface. What I can tell you is that the Balkans are geographically in Europe, but otherwise - not entirely. The EU is essentially a Western European project and this alone explains a lot.

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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted May 26, 2011 06:57 PM

I'm interested in perspective of native Balkaners (is that a word?) on how you fit into Europe.  It seems like the Balkan states want to be part of the EU, but not totally.  Is there internal resistance to joining the EU?  Or is it EU prejudice against you that keeps you out, maybe because of recent history?

(Actually, I'm interested in the EU in general - it's been around a while now and I'm curious if any of the European nationalism has dissipated.  I mean, here in the US, I consider myself an American first and foremost.  What state I'm from has little real real consequence to me.  I suspect that's true for all of the states except Texas .  But I doubt that the French will ever identify themselves as Europeans first and French second.)

Back to the Balkans - it's an interesting area to me.  It's mysterious because I don't know as much about it, historically speaking, as I do about Western Europe.  I don't need a four thousand year recount of history of the area, but clearly the people who live in the Balkans have a very different social makeup than people in Western Europe, and that is clearly affecting the way they're being integrated into the EU.  I'm interested in why that is, told from the mouths of "normal people who live there".

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Zenofex
Zenofex


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Kreegan-atheist
posted May 26, 2011 07:25 PM
Edited by Zenofex at 21:23, 26 May 2011.

The nationalism in Europe hasn't disappeared at all. Actually it's on the rise in the recent years but I guess you can say that the Europeans as a whole (with plenty of exceptions though) are willing to give the "united in diversity" thing a try. But this is a huge generalization and you can receive many opinions on the matter that might differ from the big picture drastically. The EU is firstly and mostly an economic union (or rather wants to become such, it's not yet completed) and if it fails on this ground, the political union which is its other ingredient will immediately collapse. So far it's mostly successful though.
As for the Balkans and the EU - like I said, it's a huge topic. The Balkans are a bridge. Whoever comes from the East or the West and goes to the other direction passes through here and does all kinds of things. This is going on for quite some time, since the first major civilizations and hasn't changed much. The local culture is mostly a hodge-podge of what these travelers have left but not only. If you ask specifically about the nationalism - it is kind of the Balkan peoples' way to form and keep their identities in a relatively hostile environment. The entire peninsula was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for centuries and the only reason why the people here are not calling themselves Turks nowadays is because they were stubbornly keeping in mind who they are or, more precisely, who they are not. After that the Balkans are constantly being manipulated by the Great Powers and much of what has happened since the liberation from the Ottoman rule is either caused by the big players in the world's politics or at least has much to do with them. The thing is that these Great Powers have little idea what's really happening here and are acting... irresponsibly, to say the least.
On the other hand the people from the Balkans have a long history of mutual backstabbing - another manifestation of this stubborn individualism mentioned above - and don't really like each other. Every single country here claims that part its neighbours' territories belong to it. Bulgaria for example claims that the entire Macedonia is a Bulgarian land (its unofficial name here is "South-Western Bulgaria). The same applies to the other countries. One of the main reasons is the ethnic composition of the population. Most of the Balkan countries have solid "islands" of their populations located inside the borders of their neighbours and, of course, claim that the said territories rightly belong to them. And here you go.
And again, this is a very short, very simplistic and not even remotely exhaustive summary of the matter.

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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted May 26, 2011 08:23 PM

So getting back to the original question, then - what is it that keeps the Balkans out of the EU - prejudice of Western Europeans, or inability of Balkan citizens to get their acts together?  

Do people from the Balkans WANT to be part of EU?  I know it's hard to generalize, but what do you think?  My guess is that in order for it to happen, Balkan states are going to have to settle some of their differences.  Is that likely to happen?

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baklava
baklava


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posted May 26, 2011 09:03 PM

Will we be admitted? I don't know. We're still not officially recognizing Kosovo (and no relevant politician wants to be the one that does it). I suppose that's still kind of a problem.

Would we be better off? Maybe. Some people think the EU would institute more order, higher standards and less corruption, while others, as well as a lot of our already admitted neighbours, don't sound too enthusiastic about being in the Union, or better off cause of it, citing somewhat of a second class status inside it. The Eastern and Western EU are still two very much different Europes.

I personally dislike several things about the EU, and about as many about not being in the EU, so it's hard for me to form a firm opinion about the whole thing.

So that's an "I don't know", a "maybe" and an "I don't really care".

Helpful as ever, ain't I.

Besides, it seems to me that the EU believes that the troubles tied to enlisting the Western Balkans far outweigh the projected benefits of doing so, and they want us to make it worth their while. They've got more than enough Bulgarias and Polands for everything they could use impoverished ex-commies for, and ex-Yugoslavia (except for Slovenia, which is already in) and Albania are something no one'd really want on their hands.

We served our purpose as a failed social experiment and now we're kind of redundant until we, like you said, get our acts together.

But that's tied less to wars and conflicts from the past, really (there would be a bit of internal unrest among the more hardcore right-wing elements of society but not much else), and more to the inefficient, corrupt local administration, crappy economy, and possible instability within the current boundaries which we'll probably need to sort out before going in (the Republic of Srpska, a predominantly Serbian entity in Bosnia&Herzegovina, as well as the province of Vojvodina and the Muslim Sandzak region in Serbia). All of these are probably far larger factors than whether Serbs and Croats shot at each other 20 years ago (most folks actually got over that, except for the infamous vocal minority) or whether the Macedonians are descended from Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs or native Americans.
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JoonasTo
JoonasTo


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What if Elvin was female?
posted May 26, 2011 09:06 PM
Edited by JoonasTo at 21:07, 26 May 2011.

Economical and human right issues.

And Kosovo for Serbia.
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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted May 26, 2011 09:32 PM
Edited by Corribus at 21:36, 26 May 2011.

With the complete understanding that I may be intentionally stepping on a land mine:

What would be so wrong about recognizing Kosovo's independence?  

(Please understand, I know next to nothing about what's going on there - I ask this question with full innocence and ignorance, so please try not to riddle me with verbal bullets. )

This is what I don't really understand about the Balkans.  From an outsider's perspective, it seems like every ten square foot parcel of land there wants to be their own nation, and god they'll fight to the death to get it.  Can the people who live there find no common ground to unite under a single government?  Or does the distrust and (for lack of a better word, I'll settle on the blunt) hatred really run that deep?  

Let me put it another way.  Serbia is a small country, and yet from your post it seems like there's a drive to split it up into several even smaller countries.  If people in Serbia can't get along with each other, how will they ever submit to the will of a government based half a continent away?  And why would they want to?

EDIT: Heck, do you guys realize you have a word named after you?

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Vlaad
Vlaad


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ghost of the past
posted May 26, 2011 09:36 PM
Edited by Vlaad at 21:38, 26 May 2011.

Quote:
Economical and human right issues.

And Kosovo for Serbia.
Actually it's not that vague; the requirements are mostly in the field of legislation: judicial reforms, combat against corruption, adoption of laws on restitution, changes to the election law, etc.

As for Kosovo, the EU expects "concrete progress in the ongoing talks", not the Serbian recognition of the Kosovo independence... whatever that means.

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JoonasTo
JoonasTo


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What if Elvin was female?
posted May 26, 2011 09:43 PM

And to join the European monetary union and to adopt Euro they have to fill certain requirements for their economy. Not all the new members have these, thus some countries like Latvia and Lithuania don't yet have euros. Estonia is the latest joiner I think.

As for uniting under one government, highly unlikely, extremely hard. Each country has their own language, people, history and culture. Unlike the states in the US. Imagine if we'd bunch russia, china, india and sudan with the US. Would that work?

Serbia is a big country btw.
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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted May 26, 2011 09:47 PM
Edited by Corribus at 21:53, 26 May 2011.

Quote:
As for uniting under one government, highly unlikely, extremely hard. Each country has their own language, people, history and culture. Unlike the states in the US.

Right, US is not comparable, but can you really say it is more diverse in culture, history and language than China or India, for example?  

EDIT:

By the way, would you describe the human boundaries in the Balkans to be primarily sociocultural, nationalistic, racial, or religious?
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JoonasTo
JoonasTo


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What if Elvin was female?
posted May 26, 2011 10:10 PM

China and India (and Russia) were united by military might.

The second issue would be better asked from Bak. I haven't visited them.
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Zenofex
Zenofex


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Kreegan-atheist
posted May 26, 2011 10:10 PM
Edited by Zenofex at 22:15, 26 May 2011.

Quote:
So getting back to the original question, then - what is it that keeps the Balkans out of the EU - prejudice of Western Europeans, or inability of Balkan citizens to get their acts together?  

Do people from the Balkans WANT to be part of EU?  I know it's hard to generalize, but what do you think?  My guess is that in order for it to happen, Balkan states are going to have to settle some of their differences.  Is that likely to happen?
It's not really a matter of what the people want or at least not entirely. For the last 20 years the the region, except Greece, is trying to adapt to the realities after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the state socialism (not communism mind you, this thing never existed) as a dominating social-economical system. Some see the EU as a way to speed up the process, others - as the means of establishing a subtle economical slavery. At least that's how it looks like in Bulgaria. Mostly the population seems to approve of the accession, thinking that this will resolve the economical problems which have been plaguing the country during the last two decades. But joining and staying is not just a matter of "do you want to be part of the gang". On one hand you have the westerners who invented the Copenhagen criteria more or less specifically for the would-be members from the former Eastern bloc or, more generally, with command administrative economy (because Yugoslavia was not a member of the Soviet bloc after certain events). On the other hand you have the people from Eastern Europe, including the Balkans, who have to cope with these rules before joining the club and who have mountains of local problems to deal with among other things. The consensus could be quite hard to achieve, especially when you add additional requirements.
So, I can't speak for the other countries in the region, but here are some things about the Bulgarian accession. As mentioned, the idea (at least the propagandized one) is to gain economical and social benefits from the membership. The 90s were a disaster here - the crime thrived, there was one very damaging hyperinflation, many people emigrated for good. Some of these things haven't changed to date, but it's somewhat better now. So the people wanted something to be done and the native politicians were (and actually still are) a bunch of remnants from the previous regime who transformed their political power into economical, puppets of the many crime lords, incompetent morons who reached high position because they were friends or relatives with somebody from the power structure and so on. So the EU looked like some way to get out of the local misery. But when they started making demands, the enthusiasm began to fade and not without a reason. For example, one of the conditions for the membership was to close part of our NPP based on the claim that the reactors were similar to those used in Chernobyl or something like that. There were several independent inspections which concluded that technically the plant is in excellent working condition and there are no reasons to close it but the relevant EU institutions didn't change their stance. The thing is that we used to export a lot of electricity and have it relatively cheaply so economically the plants was and still is very important to us. The whole thing left the impression that the westerners wanted to make us energetically dependent. We have a second NPP on "on hold" for years now because of... nobody really knows what, the politicians claim that we don't have good offers from competent builders but nobody believes them for some time now. Anyway, this is one of the many such "adjustments" we had to make to become part of the union and the popular support for these steps was low or even non-existent - that's why the population was never asked on the matters at hand - not that this was always bad.
I actually am not quite sure what's EUs benefit to have us on board. I suspect that it has something to do with the security issues of the continent, mostly. When Bulgaria and Romania joined the union, former Yugoslavia became fully surrounded by member-states. Given that the problems at Bosnia and Kosovo are far from resolved, that's not insignificant at all. Economically though, the region will be a black hole for quite some time before reducing the gap between itself and Western Europe.

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Vlaad
Vlaad


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ghost of the past
posted May 26, 2011 10:44 PM
Edited by Vlaad at 02:43, 07 Dec 2011.

Quote:
With the complete understanding that I may be intentionally stepping on a land mine:

What would be so wrong about recognizing Kosovo's independence?
The recognition of the Kosovo secession may further jeopardize Serbia's integrity, encouraging other separatists (the ethnic Muslims in Sanjak and Albanians in Preshevo Valley). In addition, giving up "the cradle of Serbian culture" and "Serbian holy land" would undermine the pro-Western government and renew nationalism in Serbia, endangering the fragile democracy and eventually resulting in isolation of the country. The Serbian minority in Kosovo would feel abandoned and most likely emigrate to Serbia proper. Finally, recognizing Kosovo's independence would mean admitting Serbia was wrong, while it was the ethnic Albanians who started the armed conflict and seceded by force.
Quote:
This is what I don't really understand about the Balkans.  From an outsider's perspective, it seems like every ten square foot parcel of land there wants to be their own nation
But it is their own nation, hence the conflict.  
Quote:
Can the people who live there find no common ground to unite under a single government?  Or does the distrust and (for lack of a better word, I'll settle on the blunt) hatred really run that deep?
I presume we're talking what the EU refers to as the "Western Balkans", because Bulgaria has joined the EU while Greece is a world unto itself. Like other nationalist movements in Europe, pro-Yugoslav movement was strong in the 19th century, resulting in forming of Yugoslavia after WW1. The country I grew up in was the size of the UK and had the population of Canada. However, since the beginning it was plagued by inner conflicts. As the largest nation in the federation, the Serbs believed they should have had the upper hand, while other peoples opposed this. The conflict escalated during WW2 as well as the 1990s, when the nationalist movements won the first free elections.
Quote:
Let me put it another way.  Serbia is a small country, and yet from your post it seems like there's a drive to split it up into several even smaller countries.  If people in Serbia can't get along with each other, how will they ever submit to the will of a government based half a continent away?  And why would they want to?
Differences between two nations in Europe are often like those between New York and Mexico, not New York and Texas. The conflicts in Serbia are between different nationalities, namely the Serbian majority and Albanian and Muslim minorities. Ironically, the EU might be able to keep the local nationalism in check. I'm not sure what part of her national sovereignty Serbia would be ready to give up, but I guess the same goes for other European countries.
Quote:
Right, US is not comparable, but can you really say it is more diverse in culture, history and language than China or India, for example?
Serbs and Croats? No. Serbs and Albanians? Yes.
Quote:
By the way, would you describe the human boundaries in the Balkans to be primarily sociocultural, nationalistic, racial, or religious?
Not racial.

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baklava
baklava


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posted May 27, 2011 12:18 PM
Edited by baklava at 12:20, 27 May 2011.

What Vlaad said about recognizing Kosovo's independence, plus it'd also be unconstitutional, and no one relevant would really allow himself to go against the constitution so openly (and, as Vlaad pointed out, give the right-wingers more power and legitimacy than ever before).

And if you consider something to have been an integral part of your nation for the past millennium or so (doesn't need to be a fifth of that time, really, if you consider for example the unfortunate affair of the American Confederate secession attempt), you don't really want your name to be written down in history books as the guy who gave it up in the name of the entire nation.

No, the first person to do that would probably be signing his own political (and perhaps not just political) death sentence.

Not really sure what you mean by "human boundaries", if you mean the current political ones, most of them were pretty much determined by the communists after World War 2, who basically drew the map of the republics which made up Yugoslavia as they saw fit when they came to power.

Before them, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was administratively divided into several regions called "banovinas", like this. The commies then tumbled it up so that it looked like what we have today (just with Kosovo and Vojvodina being autonomous provinces within Serbia) and basically granted every newly formed "republic" more independence, possibly in an attempt to decentralize the country and appease the various religious and ethnic groups inside it, but also setting the first tiles for future destabilization (after the death of this guy, who was a dick but managed to hold it all together for the time being).
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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted May 27, 2011 05:57 PM

Thanks for the responses my Balkan friends.  It's been quite enlightening.

However, I wanted to pick at one statement made by Vlaad

Quote:
But it is their own nation, hence the conflict.  

Right, this is what I don't get.  Why can't several ethnic (for lack of better words) group live together harmoniously in one nation?  This happens elsewhere.  I know the situation in US is hardly comparable, but for lack of anything better - US muslims don't have a problem being governed by a US government that has almost no muslims.  They don't demand to form their own muslim nation.  I know, they're geographically scattered, so take the mormons.  They're almost all in Utah, and you don't' see them clamoring for a Mormon-only nation based in Utah.  I think in the US we all recognize that while we all may have a lot differences - some of them very great - we all pretty much share the same basic interests (safety, freedom, etc.) and we can all live happily in a government that protects those freedoms but allows us live otherwise the way we want to.

I guess what I'm getting at is that if there are five or even fifty ethnic/racial/whatever groups in Serbia, why can't they all just live together in a liberal government that provides economic unity and basic measures of safety and freedoms, but allows them to otherwise practice whatever religion and culture they want to?  Why so individualistic?

Meh, maybe my question isn't being expressed well.  If that's confusing, I can try to clarify further.
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Zenofex
Zenofex


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Kreegan-atheist
posted May 27, 2011 07:44 PM

Quote:
Right, this is what I don't get.  Why can't several ethnic (for lack of better words) group live together harmoniously in one nation?
They can if they are not being constantly provoked and misled. The Balkan nations are small, poor and have been constantly used, exploited and manipulated by external powers since they became independent. The main problem is that the ethnic borders do not correspond to the those of the national states. And yes, the people here are stubborn and individualists to the extreme which only worsens the situation.

During the era of the socialism the local dictatorships were pretty effective at maintaining calm co-existence but (and because) their methods were far from democratic. Depending on the time period the main (read - the officially propagandized) purpose was the international solidarity between the workers, the condemnation of the "heretical" Tito's Yugoslavia and respectively the Soviet regime from the latter's point of view, the help for the Greek ELAS so it can win the civil war and add one more "communist" state to the peninsula and things like that but the strictly national targets and priorities weren't really in the spotlight, even though every state in the region pursued them without talking too much about it. Ideologically you should first be a communist and then Bulgarian, Serb, Albanian and so on and this actually helped for some time. The problems began to arise when the economical situation began to gradually worsen - that would be mostly in the 80s. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the system that it represented only detonated the bomb.

I'm pretty sure that if the Balkan countries were economically powerful, much - if not all - of the ethnic problems would disappear or at least would be kept in check easily. That's not the case though.

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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted May 27, 2011 07:51 PM

Hm, I see.  So you think poverty exacerbates or causes fundamental social unrest or leads to an enhancement of ethnic/racial identification?  That's interesting - I wonder if this is true generally.  (I.e. are poor people more likely to identify with a specific ethnic/racial group than wealthy people?  Is racism/ethnicism correlated with economic status?)  Then again, maybe it's the opposite - less racism is better for economy.

Anyway, assuming you're right I would suppose that EU control would have to be good for the region.  It would stabilize the economy and lead to less racial/ethnic conflict, no?
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JoonasTo
JoonasTo


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What if Elvin was female?
posted May 27, 2011 07:54 PM

They could live together, probably.
They just don't want to. Unlike in China or Russia they have the choice.

First big problem is that every ethnic group has it's own language. Would you raise one language over all the others? Or would you raise all to equal status?
Take Finland, for example, we have five languages with whom natives are quaranteed service by their own language. Swedish and Finnish all around Finland and the three Sami languages in the northernmost parts of Finland.
Does everyone hate having many official languages? Totally.
Would everyone hate getting basic services in a foreign language? Totally.

Currently all the languages are equal in the EU and it's a HUGE mess. But if one language was raised over all the others it'd not be a equal union anymore.

There are also at least 4 different writing systems in Europe.

Then there are historic and cultural issues over a lot of things.

Simply put, It's a god damn big mess.
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Corribus
Corribus

Hero of Order
The Abyss Staring Back at You
posted May 27, 2011 08:03 PM

Ok, one more question, just so I can get the feel of the place.  

Do you Balkaners think that these cultural barriers are as high among young people, or will they die out because of increased globalization?  I mean, do you have friends among other ethnic/racial groups, or is it still taboo to do so?  

When you walk down a street and see someone from another ethnic group, do you secretly hate them, or do you smile and say hello?  I just am curious really how deep these lines are drawn.
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