Recently, as the negotiations on the future status of Kosovo were about to start many politicians, governments, think tanks, came out with their proposals regarding the future status of Kosovo. Recently, Transatlantic Assembly was directly included in this international debate (here, here and here). These writings included an exchange between Goran Svilanovic, ex-Foreign Affairs Minister of Serbia and Montenegro and myself.
Current Serbian and Albanian position regarding Kosovo’s future status seem completely irreconcilable. While Serbs stick firmly to the position that independence is not an option (extensive autonomy yes), Albanians are ready to accept only independence and are rather anxious that this occurs in the near future. Because of these irreconcilable starting positions, there is much reason to fear that the negotiations on the future of Kosovo by means of shuttle diplomacy (just started) will fail. While the European Union offers full financial assistance during the negotiation, while it offers financial assistance both to Serbia and Montenegro and Kosovo, it fails until now to offer a full, constructive proposal for the future status of Kosovo. This is due to the lack of common foreign and security policy (read, due to the French and Dutch “no votes”) but also because of internal institutional and conceptual “illnesses” of the EU.
It is repeatedly mentioned that the prospective of EU membership has the ability to stabilize the region of the Balkans and play down the negative effects of the complicated inter-ethnic structure and conflicts of these states. Usually, this refers to the EU membership perspective and aid packages offered to the Balkans in the mean time. Nevertheless, this is not enough, in order to effectively and in the long run, solve the Balkan complicated puzzle, the EU needs to transform itself.
This blog entry wants to suggest New European Federalism as a way to solve the Balkan situation. Only by transforming itself in the direction of creating a new post-national federal constitutional structure can the EU effectively reconcile secessionist claims of ethnic communities (e.g. Kosovo Albanians) and the concern of the states that are to suffer from the secession (e.g. Serbia).
This brings us to the idea of internal enlargement presented 17th January in our blog. There I quoted the Stateless nations inter-group of the EU Parliament, who during the European Convention argued, “the new Constitution has to contain mechanisms for the practical exercise of the right to internal enlargement, as a concrete modality of the exercising the right to self-determination in this particular historical process.” As we now, not only that there proposal was flatly rejected but the very constitution failed. Let us however, assume that such a proposal was adopted, what would it actually mean in the conceptual and institutional sense?
Firstly, it would allow territories who seek extensive autonomy (even independence) from the central state to exist as independent entities at the European level. In this way, Scotland, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Corsica, but also, Kosovo, Republic of Srpska, Montenegro and whichever other entity that satisfies qualified democratic requirements for more autonomy would be allowed to proceed towards this path. On the other hands, the central state would receive reassurance that both its stability and the protection of the population living at the territory of the secessionist entity would receive full appreciation from the EU. In the conceptual sense this would be done through institutionalizing the concept of shared tripartite-shared sovereignty between the member state of the EU, EU and the secessionist entity. The breakaway entity would not need to insist on full independence because in the functional sense it would already enjoy the rights equal to those of any Member States of the Union. At the EU constitutional level appropriate change would have to occur in order to make the internal enlargement meaningful.
For Kosovo this would mean that once Serbia and Montenegro and Kosovo enter the EU, Kosovo could, bearing in mind that the vast majority of its population wants secession, be allowed to exercise internal enlargement. This would mean that it would exist as an independent entity within the EU, however, it would maintain links with the state of Serbia. These institutional links (and checks) would not burden the Kosovo entity but would assure that parts of the Kosovo population that did not consent to, internal enlargement in this case, get fully protected. In the institutional sense this would be an additional instrument to the protection of every individual citizen of the Union through its Charter of Fundamental Rights (assuming again that the EU Constitution was adopted). It is only in this sense that the entity that exercised internal enlargement, would be ‘less independent’ than the Member State of the Union.
As it was mentioned in the blog entry on internal enlargement, “recognition of the right of secession, or if not an explicit constitutional recognition then at least existence of the political opening for such an outcome, is a sign of the elevated quality of a democracy of a particular country”. It could theoretically exist outside of the EU, but it is the supranational framework that makes it ‘painless’ for the State and the population of the breakaway entity that does not benefit from such political and institutional outcome. Thus, only if the EU member state create the political framework for the institutionalization of the internal enlargement of the EU, can they hope to offer a long lasting formula for the Balkans.