The guardians of the ‘Western Balkan’

The gen­er­al eval­u­a­tion of achieve­ments, fail­ures or weak­ness­es of the French Pres­i­den­cy by the Sloven­ian gov­ern­ment is pos­i­tive. The ini­tial French reac­tion con­nect­ing the Irish ‘No’ direct­ly to a stand­still of the enlarge­ment was neg­a­tive­ly per­ceived, but was lat­er on changed as the French posi­tion had mollified.[1] The Paris-based French Pres­i­den­cy and its non trans­par­ent style in the begin­ning, called for adap­ta­tions in Sloven­ian organ­i­sa­tion of the EU affairs in Brus­sels and Paris. The main con­cern of the Sloven­ian gov­ern­ment was the atten­tion paid to the West­ern Balka­ns dur­ing the French Pres­i­den­cy. The Sloven­ian Pres­i­den­cy in the first half of 2008 was focused on bring­ing the Balka­ns back and high on the EU agen­da and was not par­tic­u­lar­ly pleased with the low pro­file France took with respect to the region. Con­sid­er­ing the two big chal­lenges the French Pres­i­den­cy faced, the Russ­ian-Geor­gian war and the finan­cial cri­sis, the lit­tle atten­tion paid to the Balka­ns was comprehended.

The French Presidency’s role in the Russ­ian-Geor­gian war and in the finan­cial cri­sis is assessed pos­i­tive­ly by the Sloven­ian gov­ern­ment. The French pro­vid­ed the much need­ed lead­er­ship and uni­fi­ca­tion momen­tum for the EU to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly act on the two fronts – in the inter­nal mar­ket and as a glob­al play­er. It is per­ceived that France was well equipped for the chal­lenges it faced in its pres­i­den­cy role, it could rely on its state’s capa­bil­i­ties and long term diplo­mat­ic tra­di­tion to bring togeth­er dif­fer­ent actors’ opin­ions in order to come up with the unit­ed EU posi­tion, inter­nal­ly and glob­al­ly. The per­son­al style of Pres­i­dent Sarkozy some­how also con­tributed to a pos­i­tive per­cep­tion by the peo­ple that ‘some­thing is being done at all times’. More­over, Sarkozy’s abil­i­ty to hold con­struc­tive talks with the US gov­ern­ment and the will to smoothen ini­tial­ly low-pro­file rela­tions with Ger­many to pro­vide com­mon lead­er­ship to the EU in times of cri­sis, should not be ignored. The increased num­ber of so called ‘mini sum­mits’ is per­ceived as a suc­cess­ful frame­work for address­ing the issue and as a good prac­tice in this kind of situation.[2]

Final­ly, France decid­ed quite late in its man­date to pre­side over anoth­er pre-acces­sion con­fer­ence with Croa­t­ia to open fur­ther nego­ti­at­ing chap­ters. Slovenia’s objec­tion to these were giv­en due atten­tion rel­a­tive­ly late in the process. Also, due to the change in gov­ern­ment in Slove­nia, and amidst oth­er pend­ing issues, the pres­i­den­cy did not suc­ceed in its medi­at­ing role.[3]

The expec­ta­tions of the Sloven­ian gov­ern­ment for the main pri­or­i­ties of the Czech Pres­i­den­cy are rel­a­tive­ly high, espe­cial­ly regard­ing enlarge­ment which was iden­ti­fied as one of its pri­or­i­ties. In rela­tions to the Slovenia’s veto of fur­ther acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions with Croa­t­ia, Slove­nia wel­comes the atten­tion paid and con­struc­tive role pro­vid­ed by the Czech Pres­i­den­cy so far. The stand­point of the Czech Pres­i­den­cy to treat the unre­solved bor­der issue as a bilat­er­al issue between the respec­tive gov­ern­ments has been assessed pos­i­tive­ly by the Sloven­ian gov­ern­ment. Slove­nia does not see the role of the EU pre­sid­ing state as a medi­a­tor in the mat­ter and is there­fore up to now sat­is­fied with the role of Czech Presidency.[4]

The Czech Presidency’s role in the Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian ener­gy dis­pute over the gas prices in Decem­ber 2008 and Jan­u­ary 2009 is also pos­i­tive­ly viewed. The presidency’s medi­a­tion in this regard demand­ed a more direct role of the pre­sid­ing state and in this regard the com­mon dec­la­ra­tions which were reached are pos­i­tive­ly viewed. The same could be said for the help of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pro­vid­ed to the Czech Pres­i­den­cy and tak­en by the lat­ter not only in a con­text of a con­struc­tive com­mon effort to resolve this par­tic­u­lar issue but also to find pos­si­ble long term solu­tions for diver­si­fi­ca­tion of ener­gy routes and sources.[5]

 

 

 

[1] Veroni­ka Boškovic-Pohar/Ti­na Štrafela, direc­torate for co-ordi­na­tion of the Gov­ern­ment Office for Euro­pean Affairs: Writ­ten com­ments to the EU-27 Watch Ques­tion­naire, 2008.
[2] Inter­view with Veroni­ka Boškovic-Pohar, direc­torate for co-ordi­na­tion of the Gov­ern­ment Office for Euro­pean Affairs, Ljubl­jana, 16 Jan­u­ary 2009.
[3] For more infor­ma­tion see the Sloven­ian answer to ques­tion num­ber six in this issue of EU-27 Watch.
[4] Veroni­ka Boškovic-Pohar/Ti­na Štrafela, direc­torate for co-ordi­na­tion of the Gov­ern­ment Office for Euro­pean Affairs: Writ­ten com­ments to the EU-27 Watch Ques­tion­naire, 2008.
[5] Inter­view with Veroni­ka Boškovic-Pohar, direc­torate for co-ordi­na­tion of the Gov­ern­ment Office for Euro­pean Affairs, Ljubl­jana, 16 Jan­u­ary 2009.