Newsletter 24/2012 - In focus
SEEING ITS FUTURE, THE REGION CAN DEAL WITH THE PRESENT, by Hido Biscevic, outgoing RCC Secretary General
as almost every turn of the year during my term at the helm of the RCC, we are
closing 2012 with mixed feelings and contradicting overviews. Successes of
regional cooperation and accomplishments in different areas are marred by
failures and stagnations. Economic and social progress is hampered by the
prolonged crisis effects, suffocating production, investment, trade.
Looking back, in terms of advancement of the region towards the European Union (EU), 2012 indeed proved to be the most important and successful in the recent period – in a single year, so many important steps were taken within the enlargements strategy. Croatia completed the accession negotiations and stands ready to become full EU Member in July 2013, Montenegro opened negotiations, Serbia received a candidate status, High Level Accession Dialogue was opened with authorities in Skopje, Kosovo* received a positive feasibility study, visa liberalization was put in place. In sum, the EU kept its commitments as much as the aspirants delivered.
But, at the same time, there is an undercurrent distress across the region regarding the dynamics of the enlargement; just as the EU’s “push and pull” policy is sometimes used as an alibi for domestic agendas. In the first case, the fear over the enlargement slowdown, against the background of unfinished peace, is in fact pointing to the dangers of geo-strategic limbo full of political uncertainties, dormant conflicts and unresolved issues. The fears are justified – a prolonged slowdown or postponement of the enlargement might be a repetition of Europe's historical mistakes with the Balkans, just as it might invite a resurrection of the old-time power plays and trade-offs. And this, in my mind, clearly remains the biggest challenge for the region and for Europe in the period "after Croatia".
With the broader changes of Europe's agenda and "political mood", it is a high noon for the region also to exercise a strategic thinking, beyond petty politics – routine, denials and lethargy might truly create a quarantine zone for a prolonged period of time, with disturbing and harsh economic, social and political consequences. In short, a lack of resolute and long-term visionary approach to the remaining open issues in the region could only serve as an excuse to put off the enlargement for indefinite timeline.
Thus, resolving the opened issues is a matter of a strategic choice for political leadership in many countries. It may be politically useful "survivalist tool" to balance on the rope of public or even populist sentiments and idioms, but it may in the end be strategically too expensive. It may be comforting for domestic audience to resort to any individual interpretation of recent history and to allow for these "parallel histories" to hamper reconciliation and uninterrupted cooperation, or to indulge in confusing causes and consequences, but in the end there is no way that such policies, from whichever capital they come and resurge from time to time, may bring a long-term benefit to any country and society.
The region needs to see the future in order to deal with the present. The region needs to prepare itself for the future EU instead of using the current EU crisis as an excuse for rejecting transformation and resorting to nationalism or populism.
Against these contradicting trends, when EU advancement is marred by some strategic question marks, the fact that the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) has managed to keep the engine of regional cooperation running, is a success in itself. Moreover, the fact that the RCC managed to abide by its ground rule of all-inclusiveness is another proof of the maturity and ability of our organization. The fact that the RCC has continued to implement and realise its Strategy and Work Programme to the approval and appreciation of the RCC Board, EU institutions and international partners and supporters clearly points to the immense work and dedication of the RCC Secretariat.
Last but not least, the fact that the RCC has prompted the debate within the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) on the future forms and best frameworks for consolidation of regional cooperation proves that we recognize the need for a solid and genuine regional cooperation that would create stable and unhindered conditions for durable stability of our part of Europe. And this, in my mind, will be one of the biggest challenges in 2013.
I have no doubt that persistent work will bring results, that political leaders will focus on the future, societies will be allowed to look beyond the national fences only, reconciliation and rapprochement will continue and Europe will embrace its own South.
Having spent five years at the helm of the Regional Cooperation Council, I hope that the legacy of the work of the entire Secretariat's staff will be a good starting point for the incoming Secretary General Goran Svilanovic to put his proven professionalism and knowledge to the service of the RCC and the entire region.
Hido Biscevic has been the first Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), since 1 January 2008, following the appointment by the SEECP foreign ministers in Zagreb on 10 May 2007. He was reappointed to the post on 22 June 2010 at the Istanbul meeting of the SEECP Foreign Ministers. A Croatian diplomat, Mr Biščević previously served as the State Secretary for Political Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Croatia (2003-2007), as well as at a number of other high-level diplomatic posts. Before joining the service, Mr Biscevic was editor-in-chief of the Croatian daily Vjesnik. His successor as the RCC Secretary General is Mr. Goran Svilanovic, a Serbian diplomat, who assumes the duty on 1 January 2013.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.