The Hilary Term 2020 Seminar Series – on Security Challenges in South East Europe in a changing geopolitical context – kicked off on 22 January with a session on Western Policy Approaches to South East Europe: engagement or neglect? Chaired by Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College), the speakers were Mirena Pencheva (St Antony’s College) and Jarek Wisniewski (Independent Analyst).
She also reviewed platforms for engagement outside the EU framework: the Berlin Process, and the Regional Cooperation Council. Both had the advantages of flexibility and a broader mandate, placing the Western Balkan states as equal partners, as well as focusing on cooperation between states within the region, rather than, as in EU accession, promoting competition between states.
This multiplicity of platforms posed challenges of duplication and overlap, with consequent waste of resources, and lack of coordination between platforms. Enlargement fatigue was present on both sides, as well as a lack of ownership by the countries involved of the consequent reforms, reinforced by external influences. The way forward lay, in her view, through:
- The recognition of common challenges and the lessons to be learnt from them;
- The need for the EU and the Western Balkans to be treated – and to act – as equal partners, taking ownership of reforms and developing common responses to challenges;
- The possible expansion of a multi-speed Europe approach, formalising what already exists in fields such as Schengen and intelligence cooperation.
For the USA, the overarching question was who actually ran US foreign policy – in general and in SE Europe in particular. The existence of two Special Envoys risked overlap and confusion. At the same time, the EU-US relationship was a broken line, with clear divisions regarding border adjustments; was the US itself divided?
- The appointment of an EU Special Representative to the Western Balkans: but how would he/she relate to the US Special Reps?
- Increased NATO support to counter hybrid threats;
- A common US-EU approach on the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue – neither had a clear position at the moment;
- More public engagement.
Jonathan Scheele (SEESOX Associate and Blog Editor)