For an integration of the Balkan area into the European Union: certain, sustainable, from the bottom upwards.
"Yet the Balkans are not substantially different from Europeof which they are a region:
they are its remorse, its unconscious, its mirrorand, in a certain sense, its inwardness and its truth."
(Rada Ivekovic, Autopsy on the Balkans)
Ten years after the beginning of the Balkan tragedy it is now time that the idea of a truly united Europe, without walls and frontiers, be realised. Thus a process needs to be launched of certain, sustainable integration of the Balkans into the European Union from the bottom upwards. This is the appeal which was made at the conclusion of the international conference in Padua, part of Civitas, the fair of united economy, and which men and women from all parts of Europe intend to launch until the now antiquated division which heralds only instability and new conflict be ended.
A European design
We as persons from civil society which in these years of gloom and pain have opposed every form of nationalism and the idea that war could solve the Balkan conflicts, we men and women who have got to know and love this part of Europe as a meeting place between great millennial cultures, we citizens of a Europe still divided which doesn't look beyond its borders towards a bigger more plural European citizenship, hereby take up the strong and clear message from the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi: "We have to view the Balkans as "virtual members" of the European Union. For all these countries, from Croatia to the Greek border, the future lies in the EU (....), we should reflect on this objective from now onwards".
The unresolved problems
There are too many unresolved crises in the Balkans: the unnatural situation of Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina, the uncertain destiny of the Republic of Macedonia and the greater Albanian question, the position of Montenegro, the transition not yet consolidated in Croatia and Serbia, the respect of the rights of minorities within states, the ongoing drama of thousands of refugees and homeless. Not to mention the disastrous economic and social conditions, caused by a combination of the extreme institutional fragility of the states, their financial crises, by the commonplace lawlessness and strengthening of economic criminality and the power of the mafia.
For a certain integration
Faced with this situation of grave instability, Europe can and must play a decisive role, especially today with the fall of Tudjman and Milosevic perhaps the pathological use of nationalism is finished and new spaces for dialogue and possible integration are opening. However, in order to render this prospective of complete integration of the Balkans into Europe credible, we have to fix clear dates and move rapidly. We see that the economic, social and institutional parameters in the whole region are rather distant from the minimum European standards. Yet we are convinced that the advantage, even an economic one, for the European Union of stability in the area is such as to overcome any resistance.
For a sustainable integration
The economic future of South-Eastern Europe cannot be guaranteed either by the pipedream of pirate western investments, nor by continuing to rely on humanitarian aid. A possible process of integration has to be based upon the option of local development which is a criteria for economic growth, in a plan of integrated promotion of the area within which local resources and international aid converge. This plan can be based upon, on the one hand, professions of quality, of high human and creative intensity, and on the other hand, on the primary sector, bringing together joint projects of local economic development, support given to enterprises and small productive consortiums, exploitation of natural resources and cultural assets.
For an integration from the bottom upwards
The ruins left by wars and even before the crises of bureaucratic-state models necessitate a new social cohesion via a pact between citizens and public administration, between citizens and community, between citizens and territory. To this end we have to launch reform processes, above all cultural but also institutional, which, in the horizontal relationship between regions and municipalities, can foreshadow a common European identity. The relations between decentralised co-operation and people's diplomacy are therefore decisive for reconstructing those bridges of dialogue and civility demolished by war, and in order to reinforce the fabric of society and its institutions within the community. Assisting growth and giving voice to civil society, to the non-governmental organisations, to civilian movements in the Balkans - far from wanting to encourage a lack of public commitment - already represents a form of integration from the bottom upwards towards a Europe composed of regions and citizens.
A Europe which unites
Therefore, after ten years of wars, bereavement and suffering, the moment has come to stop the disintegration of the Balkans. We have to offer these lands and the people who inhabit them a strong image for their and our common future. Europe has a great responsibility: upon this its capacity to be a real community of peoples and not a mere union of currencies. This opportunity should also be given to the Balkans, as the only way to escape the sandbanks of micro-state nationals and dissolve the internal conflicts in a larger context.
It is a challenge which must involve everybody, for our common good. The waters of the Mediterranean wash upon Barcelona and Venice the same as Dubrovnik and Durres. The Danube flows through Vienna just as Belgrade. The future of Europe is linked to that of the Balkans. Beyond all our confines.