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IEP Lunch Debate with Doris Pack: “Perspectives on Stabilization and Integration of the Western Balkan States”

Mathias Jopp, Doris Pack, Katrin Böttger

On 2 May 2012, Doris Pack, Chair­woman of the Committee for Culture and Education and a member of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Albania, Bosnia and Herze­govina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo, discussed the numerous challenges of EU integration both individual Balkan countries as well as the region as a whole are facing in an IEP lunch debate entitled “Perspec­tives on Stabi­lization and Integration of the Western Balkan States.” Pack empha­sized that EU involvement in the area should not be viewed as exclu­sively altru­istic, as a stable south­eastern Europe will present much less of a threat to the EU than one festering in joblessness, growing nation­alism, and corruption. The Balkans can also not be viewed as a single entity treatable with a single solution—despite regional parallels, each country must be approached individ­ually and carefully. Finally, in order to avoid later compli­ca­tions as in the cases of Romania and Bulgaria, each country must completely fulfill all EU entry criteria before receiving a set date of EU accession.

Pack also explored a variety of transna­tional issues threat­ening Balkan stability. She criti­cized Greece for its refusal to grant the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia rights to the single name Macedonia. This super­ficial disagreement may inadver­tently ward off Macedonia’s interest in EU integration and poten­tially jeopardize regional stability.  She also voiced her disap­proval that certain EU member states have not yet recog­nized Kosovo as an independent state, and pointed to the continued tensions between Serbia and Kosovo as Serbia’s most pressing issue. In the following discussion, audience members had the oppor­tunity to direct further questions to Doris Pack. One of the most thought provoking contri­bu­tions was that of a lawyer from Sarajevo, who condemned the stubborn, immobile, and corrupt power struc­tures in the Balkan states that entirely prevent younger, EU-friendly progres­sives from acquiring influ­ential positions in government. This particular question reflected the general theme of the discussion focusing on the impor­tance of involving youth in Balkan political processes.