The rule of law is not only dependent on the European Union (EU). It starts with the Western Balkan countries, which should advocate it through the common approach towards different parts of society. This is one of the main conclusions of the panel discussion “What Should We Do about the Rule of Law in the Western Balkans in 2020?” organized by the Politikon Network that took place on November 20.
Following the EU’s decision not to start accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, a series of proposals, initiatives have been launched, the most significant of which is French non-paper, which envisages a new multi-stage accession model and completely different ones. basics and principles. The senior researcher at the Austrian Center for International Affairs at the University of Vienna Vedran Džihić assessed that this decision was a “cynical move of the EU”.
“It is an act that is not consistent with either EU principles, nor does it conform to the methodology and principles that the EU itself has defined for this process”, said Džihić, adding that the French non-paper represents “a technocratic form of this cynicism and an attempt to justify this decision”.
Commenting on the French proposal in regards to Serbia and Montenegro, the executive director of the Politikon Network Jovana Marović said that it was completely unrealistic to expect that there will be two different methodologies for different candidate countries. “If the new methodology is adopted, it will be applied to all Western Balkan countries”, stressed Marović.
She also pointed out that the rule of law has been stagnant for many years in the Western Balkans”, adding that the framework of negotiations with the EU in Serbia and Montenegro, and integrations in other countries have not helped restart the rule of law in the region so far. “We need to think about how to advance the rule of law, what is a satisfactory framework and what we can all do in that direction”, said Marović.
Tara Tepavac, a senior researcher at CRTA said that there was a no basic consensus in society on “what the rule of law represents for us and whether this is the direction we want to go.”
“And that consensus would then imply that citizens, regardless of whether it is a precondition for EU membership or not, know that the values we stand for are democratic, that the rule of law is what we seek, and that then we have a common appearance of different parts of society, who should strive for the rule of law to exist”, assessed Tepavac.
“But we do not see that this rule of law and the process of state formation in the region begin with us. I think it is a good time to say that many things are up to us, not the EU”, stressed the director of the Belgrade Center for Security Policy Igor Bandović. He also said that EU may sometimes do some things that are not most useful to the societies in the Western Balkans.
“In that sense, all proposals, including the French proposal, should be taken with caution. It has not been elaborated and one does not know exactly what it would look like in practice”, said Bandović.
Zoran Nečev, head of the Center for European Integration at the Societas Civilis Institute for Democracy in Northern Macedonia, said a vacuum had been created, adding that neither the Western Balkan countries nor the EU are sure how to address it. “It is up to the institutions to have a clear vision of what we want for our citizens”, said Nečev.
He also added those involved in European integration must be positive. “What’s the positive about the latest decision? Enlargement policy has ceased to be an EU foreign policy and has become an internal issue. We need to make this issue more internal”, concluded Nečev.
The panel discussion was organized within the project “Rule of Law in the Western Balkans: Reinventing the rules of the game”, implemented by the Politikon Network in collaboration with the CRTA and Team Institute, with the support of the European Fund for the Balkans.