SELIM IBRAIMI- INSTITUTE FOR SECURITY STUDIES AND DEVELOPMENT-(ISSD)
The most powerful and influential states of the European Union (EU), Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark, at the end of the week, undertook a series of measures regarding the new asylum rules for refugees displaced from Levant and Maghreb into the EU member states.
Therefore European disagreements over migration were transferred to the Western Balkans by postponing the date for starting negotiations with Albania and Macedonia until June of 2019.
The Council of Europe (CE) and senior officials of the Union announced that due to the failure to meet the EU criteria, the Council decided not to start talks this year with Skopje and Tirana, but European screening will begin in July this year.
In fact, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Austria are returning to the rivalry of the years (1990s- 1995) when these states strengthened the asylum rules for Yugoslav conflict refugees and at the same time took sides in the demands of the former Yugoslav republics for independence.
The European power struggle for stronger repositioning on the international scene has reflected on Brussels’ decision to reform first the Union. Further the EU has a bigger task, to prescreen well and better the Western Balkans aspirant countries.
In addition the Euro-American rift has left a considerable space for Russia’s hybrid war in Europe and the Balkans.
In the Balkans the reforms are going very slow and EU and the U.S are in big strategic competition with Russia and Turkey.
Example, Macedonia needs to speed up, internal, military and security reforms and become the 30th member of the NATO Alliance.
The whole process, as it is known, will depend from the outcome of the referendum set for autumn, which the citizen of Macedonia will decide for the new name of the state agreed between Greece and Macedonia on June of this year. Constitutional changes on the part of Macedonia are crucial for the agreement between the two states to be successful.
Macedonian political and radical forces oppose the name agreement and openly are against the policies of the government of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
The Prime Minister, who is also supported by the largest party of the Albanians of Macedonia, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), has launched an easy-going campaign to overcome the obstacles that come not only from the opposition.
In order to succeed the referendum, the national atmosphere must change and this should be done before the Russian hybrid possible tactics take its form in the Balkans and Macedonia.
The start of talks with the European Commission (EC) until full EU membership – the government must see it as a long-term process. As all we know the strategic goal for Macedonia is formal NATO invitation. Macedonia is a fragile country with serious security problems and unresolved inter-ethnic issues; a call to start talks with NATO would have impact on the democratization of military structures and the whole society.
As the country first will be prescreen by NATO, the official Skopje is given another chance to enter reformed into the Alliance and perhaps one day in the EU.
Strengthening the Adriatic wing with new members would be welcome for the NATO Alliance and for Macedonia. It is too early to declare that official Skopje with the announced internal reforms will start to look European and equitable for all.
On the other side, the open opposition of U.S. President Donald Trump to Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel, has increased the insecurity of Europeans, especially with the high-level summit between Trump and Putin in Helsinki.
It is now quite clear that President Donald Trump is striking Germany and the German market as one of the major pillars of the European and world economy. Also the U.S. press reported that Trump plans to withdraw the U.S. Army from Germany.
Europeans want to take security issues into their hands, ranging from military to international trade issues. France and Germany have agreed on the establishment of a “Rapid Intervention Force”which would be a parallel Franco-German army in response to Trump’s harsh policies with regard to the financial contribution of NATO member states of two percent of the national budget by each member of the Alliance.
But, with the unverified reports that Washington can recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, in long term may be unpredictable what other possible concessions can make the U.S. to Russia, nor less about the consequences of such policies for the European Union and the Western Balkans.
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Selim Ibraimi and Blerim Abedini
Chief’s of Peace building, Conflict Menagment, Rule of Law, and Violent Extremism Programs.
Institute for Security Studies and Development-Macedonia (ISSD)