EU enlargement, revisionism and nationalism

By Dr. George Voskopoulos

In international affairs scholars have long scrutinized the issue of conflict and coop-eration among state actors. These directly or indirectly refer to the issue of war and peace. Revisionist states are unsatisfied with the territorial status quo and use all means available to pursue what they see as valued ends.

In south-eastern Europe this has been the main feature of the framework of local in-teraction among states lacking a developed political culture and an operationally de-mocratic demos. Whether they are “reformed” communists, remnants of the old communist regime, descendants of Nazi collaborators or militarists, they have identi-cal aims pursued under the pretext of ideologically or politically oriented goals.

The end of the Cold War did not bring about the end of history in south-eastern Europe but assisted the re-emergence of the long supported irredentist policies of those political vampires who have been in a dormant state waiting for the right moment to become once again a threat to the rest. The means used may be shortly categorized in military and non-military. Eventually the selection of those means relates to what is at hand, to the power available, the determination to use it, the inadequacy of international law and ignorance.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Turkey have taken par-allel routes in becoming in-system and out of system destabilizers in the region. Their means are not similar but their nominal aim identical. Actually this has provided them with the most powerful motive in bilateral cooperation in terms of policies, multi-level support, mutual funding and establishment of NGOs operating on a clearly geo-political framework. It has led to a relationship typically described through the patron and client state framework.

On the one hand the re-invention of history has been the selected terrain of action. The dispute is not a question of survival and grandeur but an issue of challenging ter-ritorial stability. This has led to the extreme position of discarding Slav origin and la-beling it as a “derogatory term”, an “insult”. It is indeed dangerous not to cut ties with the Slav past because this brings the country closer to Bulgaria. At the same time it is convenient to baptize Bulgarian national heroes “Macedonians”, to deny the Bulgarian origin of the language spoken, to usurp Greek history and to suppress Bulgarophilia and Grecophilia within the country. A visit to Vergina, Pella and tens of ar-chaeological sites in Greece would be enough to ridicule those who suggest that ancient Macedonians spoke Greek because it was a fashionable thing to do. In effect what some suggest here is that ancient Macedonians did not speak their mother tongue but a “foreign language”.

The aim of this historical conundrum and the elimination of historical facts take place under the pretext of the freedom to chose an identity at will. Yet, identities have long been associated with control of territories and eventually this brings to the surface their aim, namely to challenge the territorial status quo. Some suggest that legal action could be a useful tool to materialize their irredentist dreams, yet, they forget that terri-torial changes in the region have taken place only after wars

For long, inaction, ideologically-stemmed utopia and politically correct behaviour have sidelined the real danger of supporting revisionist states. These are the kind of states that do not belong to the EU, a nuleus of parochial states representing the worst side of Balkan history and its Hobbesian microcosm. This is the mentality Bulgaria, Greece and Romania have long discarded and a major hurdle in building a pan-European zone of stability, security, development and prosperity.

A second country that wishes to join he EU is Turkey. Yet, a number of defining features of its national value system, operational mode of democracy and legitimacy of its international behaviour should be dealt with in an efficient and radical way. For long it has been a militaristic regime, a less mature democracy, a country that constitutes an actual military threat to an EU member. On top of the indicative only failures of its constitutional and behavioural record the country illegally occupies a part of Cyprus refusing to apply the European acquis. Greek air space violations and overflying Greek islands in the Aegean are a daily routine leading to dogfights. These are not signs of modernity but remnants of an empire mentality alien to European values. These facts distance Turkey politically from the EU and turn it into the odd man out.

Nationalisms and irredentism in the region have been suppressed or “legitimized” whenever this has served an intrusive power´s purpose, a policy that has turned the Balkans into a cost-effective battleground for big power practices. Yet, not all dis-putes should be analysed under the rubric of nationalism. There are different forms of nationalism which is or can be a powerful, emancipating political force. As under-pinned, “nationalism…conceals within itself extreme opposites and contradictions. It can mean emancipation…Nationalism, it seems, is a repository of dangers as well as opportunities. It has so many different forms and “national” variations in space and time that is often argued whether they can all be accommodated under one roof”.

On the other hand militarism glorifies the use of military means in “resolving” any differences. It is by far a distant practice within the European regulatory system and values. Any future compromise on the issue is bound to have two simultaneous ef-fects. First, it will jeopardise the sustainability of the European edifice since flexibility leads to the application of double standards and second it will certainly lead to veto situations in defence of national interests.

The newly-elected President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek estimated that the Western Balkans present an “interesting and promising situation…

Countries queuing up to join is a symbol of our success”. Yet, success is measured at every single step the EU is taking. Success should be defined in terms of imposing norms of international behavior in an uncompromising way. Eradicating irredentism and politically isolate those who have turned it into a national ideology should be the first step in ensuring the homogeneity of value application. Also, demilitarizing the political system of a candidate country should be a guarantee for future success of the enlargement endeavor.

Source: American Chronicle

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