A Customs Union for the Balkans

The fall of Milosevic does not cure the political woes of the Balkans; indeed, it raises their urgency. Yugoslavia has disintegrated, but the disintegration is incomplete. It was in Yugoslavia that Vojislav Kostunica was elected president, but his mandate comes solely from support in Serbia. Montenegro, Serbia’s junior partner in the Yugoslav federation, mostly boycotted the election while Albanians in Kosovo ignored them.

Yet it was Yugoslavia, whose foundations are unstable, that was recently admitted to the UN. A host of problems remain unresolved: relations between Serbia and Montenegro and the status of Kosovo (not to mention Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina). Any resolution – any suggestion of change – will engender new conflicts because of conflicting claims of sovereignty.

However tempting it may be to solve the puzzle by drawing new borders or establishing new entities, this conundrum cannot be resolved in terms of sovereignty. That traditional solution would only perpetuate the problems of the Balkans. A new approach is needed: the European Union should use the prospect of European integration as the way to promote regional integration.

The EU could act as a magnet to bring the region closer together by bringing the region as a whole closer to Europe. This idea has great appeal to people in the region, but only the EU can make it happen. After NATO intervention in Kosovo, European leaders made this approach the cornerstone of their vision for the Balkans. It was enshrined in the Stability Pact signed at the Sarajevo Summit of July, 1999.