"Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity." reads the Schumann Declaration of May 9, 1950.
That solidarity has been the essence of European integration during more then 50 years. Europe's identity resurrected from the ashes of the WWII and started to be construed towards common European values. Embracement of those values assumes renouncement of selfish national interests as a token of building a common European future. Those values are enshrined in Art. 6 of the EU Treaty and have become an inextricable part of acquis communautaire. They are also made part of Stabilisation and Association Agreements as their essential element and condition for accession to the EU.
European Union committed to open the door for membership of states of South East Europe once they meet membership criteria. With that aim in view negotiations with Croatia are underway. Yet, on December 18., 2008 Slovenia blocked opening or closing of 10 negotating chapters, due to the territorial dispute between the two countries. The Slovenian move is seriously calling in question the Commission-set date for completing the technical negotiations by the end of the term of the Commission in 2009.
Croatia is not blocked because of her failure to comply with negotiating benchmarks or membership requirements, but for a selfish urge of Slovenia to have an upper hand in the territorial dispute with Croatia.
This opinion is not about the territorial dispute. It will be settled in a court of law or another international tribunal where one of the litigants will win and another loose and the loosing party will accept the outcome. What this opinion is about is an unprecedented and distructive move of Slovenia to reject the solution proposed by the French presidency, and to condition accession of a candidate country by imposing its unilateral views on the other party in the dispute.
It is Europe I am talking about. The Europe, envisaged by its founding fathers, who counted on solidarity as a token of common future. The Europe where border disputes are despised and set aside and those who invoke them marginalized and exposed to shame.
Europe should construe its identity against negative historic experiences. Against fascism, communism and populist nationalism. All the mentioned historic ideologies have territory and national sovereignty in their core.
European Union must not succumb Slovenian populist demands. Slovenia should be told that the position of her government misfits European union. Even worse, it jeopardizes both its internal fundaments and its external policy. European union has invested enormous efforts in order to stabilize the Balkans. A clear result of those efforts can be seen in slow but steady progress of all countries of the Western Balkans towards the EU. Slovenia is already a Member State, Croatia is negotiating membership, Macedonia is a candidate country. Montenegro just applied for the membership.
If Slovenian claim is accepted as a legitimate one by the 26, it will destroy the moral underpining of Europe to act in the region and it will fuel territorial claims which are not in short supply, among candidate and potential candidate countries. Needles to describe the potential of destruction.
Slovenian blocade has to be put to an end at once! This is an appeal to Europeans not to accept populist territorial claims that Slovenian government smuggled into the negotiating process.
Jean Monnet Chair
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Law
P.S. Dec. 19, 2008.
As reported by Slovenian press, Slovenian president Mr. Danilo Türk said that the decision of the Slovenian Government was "neccessary for protection of national interests." Danilo Türk: "Odločitev slovenske vlade glede Hrvaške je nujna za obrambo nacionalnih interesov"
What national interests is Mr. Türk talking about? Territorial interests? Europe has been through too many tragic historic conflicts that were based on that kind of logic. European Union was created to put an end to the zero-sum game where protection of national interest of one state is served only where the Others lose. Territorial disputes have no place in the EU, nor in the membership negotiations.