EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘EU-Croatia relations‘:

“Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity,” reads the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950.

That solidarity has been the essence of European integration for over 50 years. Europe’s identity was resurrected from the ashes of WWII and started to be construed towards common European values. Embracing those values assumes renouncement of selfish national interests as a gesture towards building a common European future.

Such values are enshrined in Article 6 of the EU Treaty and have become an inextricable part of the acquis communautaire. They were also made part of Stabilisation and Association Agreements as an essential element and condition of accession to the EU.

The European Union committed to opening the door to membership for South East European states once they meet the membership criteria. With that aim in mind, negotiations with Croatia are underway. Yet, on 18 December 2008, Slovenia blocked the opening or closure of ten negotiation chapters due to the territorial dispute between the two countries.

The Slovenian move seriously calls into question the date set by the Commission for completing the technical negotiations by the end of the current EU executive’s term in 2009.

Croatia is not being blocked over its failure to comply with negotiating benchmarks or membership requirements, but for a selfish urge of Slovenia to have an upper hand in the territorial dispute with Croatia.

This opinion is not about the territorial dispute. It will be settled in a court of law or another international tribunal, where one of the litigants will win and another will lose, and the losing party will accept the outcome. What this opinion is about is an unprecedented and destructive move by Slovenia to reject the solution proposed by the French EU Presidency, and to make conditional the accession of a candidate country by imposing its unilateral views on the other party in the dispute.

It is Europe I am talking about. The Europe envisaged by its founding fathers, who counted on solidarity as a token of a common future. The Europe where border disputes are despised and set aside and those who invoke them marginalised and exposed to shame.

Europe should construe its identity against negative historic experiences. Against fascism, communism and populist nationalism. All the mentioned historical ideologies have territory and national sovereignty at their core.

The European Union must not succumb to populist Slovenian demands. Slovenia should be told that the position of its government misfits the European Union. Even worse, it jeopardises both its internal fundamentals and its external policy.

The European Union has invested enormous efforts in stabilising the Balkans. A clear result of those efforts can be seen in the slow but steady progress being made by all countries of the Western Balkans towards the EU. Slovenia is already a member state, Croatia is negotiating membership and Macedonia is a candidate country. Montenegro just applied for membership.

If Slovenia’s claim is accepted as a legitimate one by the 26, it will destroy the moral underpinning of Europe to act in the region and it will fuel territorial claims, which are not in short supply, among candidate and potential candidate countries. Needless to say, it will sow the seeds of potential destruction.

The Slovenian blockade must be brought to an end at once! This is an appeal to Europeans not to accept populist territorial claims that the Slovenian government has smuggled into the negotiating process.

Siniša Rodin
Jean Monnet Chair
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Law

P.S. As reported by Slovenian press, Slovenian president Mr. Danilo Türk said that the decision of the Slovenian government was “neccessary for the protection of national interests”.

What national interests is Mr. Türk talking about? Territorial interests? Europe has been through too many tragic historical conflicts that were based on that kind of logic. The European Union was created to put an end to the zero-sum game whereby protection of the national interest of one state is served only where the others lose. Territorial disputes have no place in the EU, nor in the membership negotiations.

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