Macedonia to be Invited to Join NATO, Despite Greece
High-placed NATO officials informed the Chronicle a few weeks ago that, if the negotiations between Macedonia and Greece regarding what has come to be known as `the name issue` fail, NATO will invite Macedonia to join the alliance, effective June 30, 2009, and conditioned upon a resolution of its bilateral bone of contention with its much larger neighbor by said date.
The `name issue` involves a protracted dispute over the last 17 years between the two Balkan polities over Macedonia`s right to use its constitutional name, `The Republic of Macedonia`. The Greeks claim that Macedonia is a region in Greece and that, therefore, the country Macedonia has no right to monopolize the name and its derivatives (`Macedonian`).
Moreover, the Greeks feel that Macedonians have designs on the part of Greece that borders the tiny, landlocked country and that the use of Macedonia`s constitutional name internationally will only serve to enhance irredentist and secessionist tendencies, thus adversely affecting the entire region`s stability.
Macedonia retorts that it has publicly renounced any claims to any territory of any of its neighbors. Greece is Macedonia`s second largest foreign investor. The disparities in size, military power and geopolitical and economic prowess between the two countries make Greek `fears` appear to be ridiculous. Macedonians have a right to decide how they are to be called, say exasperated Macedonian officials.
Moreover, the Greek demands are without precedent either in history or in international law. Many countries bear variants of the same name (Yemen, Korea, Germany until 1990, Russia and Byelorussia, Mongolia). Others share their name with a region in another country (Brittany in France and Great Britain across the channel, for instance).
NATO`s Bucharest Summit (April 2-4, 2008) is pivotal. It will seal NATO`s commitment to encompass and extend its security guarantees to Southeast Europe (the western Balkans, notably Macedonia, Albania, and Croatia, aka the Adriatic Group). It will cement NATO`s drive into Russia`s borders (by inviting Ukraine and other former Soviet satellites to join the alliance`s much vaunted `Partnership for Peace`) and may well herald the Second Cold War. It will enshrine the two-tier structure of NATO: active, combative members, such as the USA, UK, and Holland - vs. passive members confined to roles of logistical support (e.g., Germany).
II. EU and NATO - The Competing Alliances
Shifting geopolitical and geo-strategic realities in the wake of the September 11 atrocities have rendered the European Union project all the more urgent. NATO - an erstwhile anti-Soviet military alliance is search of purpose - is gradually acquiring more political hues. Its remit has swelled to take in peacekeeping, regime change, and nation-building.
Led by the USA, it has expanded aggressively into central and northern Europe. It has institutionalized its relationships with the countries of the Balkans through the `Partnership for Peace` and with Russia through a joint council. The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary - erstwhile EU candidates and now its newest members - have been full scale members of NATO for 9 years now.
The EU responded by feebly attempting to counter this worrisome imbalance of influence with a Common Foreign and Security Policy and a now all but defunct rapid deployment force. Still, NATO`s chances of replacing the EU as the main continental political alliance are much higher than the EU`s chances of substituting for NATO as the pre-eminent European military pact. the EU is hobbled by minuscule and decreasing defence spending by its mostly pacifistic members and by the backwardness of their armed forces.
That NATO, under America`s thumb, and the vaguely anti-American EU are at cross-purposes emerged during the spat over the International Criminal Court. Countries, such as Romania and Macedonia, were asked to choose between NATO`s position - immunity for American soldiers on international peacekeeping missions - and the EU`s (no such thing). Finally - and typically - the EU backed down. But it was a close call and it cast in sharp relief the tensions inside the Atlantic partnership.
As far as the sole superpower is concerned, the strategic importance of western Europe has waned together with the threat posed by a dilapidated Russia. Both south Europe and its northern regions are emerging as pivotal.
Airbases in Bulgaria are more useful in the fight against the insurgency in Iraq than airbases in Germany. The affairs of Bosnia - with its al-Qaida`s presence - are more pressing than those of France. Turkey and its borders with central Asia and the Middle East is of far more concern to the USA than disintegrating Belgium. Russia, a potentially newfound ally (or, in the wake of the Western-orchestrated Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, an old adversary), is more mission-critical than grumpy Germany.
Thus, enlargement serves to enhance the dwindling strategic relevance of the EU and heal some of the multiple rifts with the USA: on trade, international affairs (e.g., Israel), defence policy, and international law. But this is not the only benefit the EU derives from its embrace of the former lands of communism.
Faced with an inexorably ageing populace and an unsustainable system of social welfare and retirement benefits, the EU is in dire need of young immigrants. According to the United Nations Population Division, the EU would need to import 1.6 million migrant workers annually to maintain its current level of working age population. But it would need to absorb almost 14 million new, working age, immigrants per year just to preserve a stable ratio of workers to pensioners.
Eastern Europe - and especially central Europe - is the EU`s natural reservoir of migrant labor. It is ironic that xenophobic and anti-immigration parties hold the balance of power in a continent so dependent on immigration for the survival of its way of life and institutions.
The internal, common, market of the EU has matured. Its growth rate has leveled off and it has developed a mild case of deflation. In previous centuries, Europe exported its excess labor and surplus capacity to its colonies - an economic system known as `mercantilism`.
The markets of central, southern, and eastern Europe - West Europe`s hinterland - are replete with abundant raw materials and dirt-cheap, though well-educated, labor. As indigenous purchasing power increases, the demand for consumer goods and services will expand. Thus, the enlargement members act both as a sink for Europe`s production and the root of its competitive advantage.
Moreover, the sheer weight of their agricultural sectors and the backwardness of their infrastructure can force a reluctant EU to reform its inanely bloated farm and regional aid subsidies, notably the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). That the EU cannot afford to treat its new members to dollops of subventioary largesse as it does the likes of France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece is indisputable. But even the controversial phase-in period of 10 years burdens the EU`s budget - and the patience of its member states and denizens - to an acrimonious breaking point.
The countries of central and eastern Europe are new consumption and investment markets. With a total of 300 million people (Russia counted), they equal the EU`s population - though not its much larger purchasing clout. They are likely to while the next few decades on a steep growth curve, catching up with the West. Their proximity to the EU makes them ideal customers for its goods and services. They could provide the impetus for a renewed golden age of European economic expansion.
Central and eastern Europe also provide a natural land nexus between west Europe and Asia and the Middle East. As China and India grow in economic and geopolitical importance, an enlarged Europe will find itself in the profitable role of an intermediary between east and west.
The wide-ranging benefits to the EU of enlargement are clear, therefore. What do the new members stand to gain from their accession? The answer is: surprisingly little. All of them already enjoyed, to varying degrees, unfettered, largely duty-free, access to the EU much prior to their membership. To belong, a few - like Estonia - had to dismantle a much admired edifice of economic liberalism.
Most of them have to erect barriers to trade and the free movement of labor and capital where none existed. All of them are forced to encumber their fragile economies with tens of thousands of pages of prohibitively costly labor, intellectual property rights, financial, and environmental regulation. None stands to enjoy the same benefits as do the more veteran members - notably in agricultural and regional development funds.
Joining the EU would deliver rude economic and political shocks to the new members. A brutal and rather sudden introduction of competition in hitherto much-sheltered sectors of the economy, giving up recently hard-won sovereignty, shouldering the debilitating cost of the implementation of reams of guideline, statutes, laws, decrees, and directives, and being largely powerless to influence policy outcomes. Faced with such a predicament, some countries may even reconsider.
Prior to 1945, Europe`s history was bipolar. It was marked by a permanent tension between Bismarckian `balance of power`, Berlin Congress-like, alliances - and, when these failed, armed conflict. In the decade following the end of World War II, the continent - both West and East - was under foreign military occupation (Soviet and American).
The Cold War was an alien geopolitical agenda, imposed by the United States and the USSR on a Europe devastated by two horrific conflagrations. The USA deployed its pecuniary prowess (the Marshall Plan, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund-IMF) and its formidable army to create NATO, almost single-handedly and often against the express wishes of a Europhobic Britain and an Americanophobic France.
The demise of Communism signaled the end of this aberrant and unprecedented phase in European history. Post 1989, continental politics is back to normal. Europe`s nation-states are furiously at work forming supranational political and economic alliances intended to offset Germany`s dominance either by co-opting it - or by deterring it.
The foreign policy of the kernel of continental Europe (France and Germany) has significantly diverged from that of its erstwhile ally, the USA. Most Europeans are also busy creating an alternative to NATO, now merely a long arm of the US military. NATO`s bases are shifting to the former Soviet colonies. No longer a defensive pact, it provides logistical support and peacekeepers to overextended American troops abroad.
Gradually, as NATO is being Americanized, the European Union (possibly with a corresponding military wing) emerges as the only truly European forum. Euro-Atlanticism seems to have served its purpose. The Europeans` main concern now is not Russia but a resurgent Germany, replete with its re-acquired hinterland (namely the new members of the EU in Central Europe).
It is back to the 19th century. Britain is steeped in glorious isolation. France, wary of Germany, is trying to harness it to the common project of the EU. Germany, aware of its economic might, is reasserting itself diplomatically and militarily. The enlargement of the EU eastwards is the price that France had to reluctantly pay to keep Germany inside the European tent.
The EU is not the first common market in the continent`s history - neither is the euro its first monetary union. All previous attempts at unification and harmonization ended in failure. There is no reason to assume that the fate of the current experiment will be any different.
The assertion that Western Europe has seen the last of its wars defies history and geography. It is only a matter of time before another European conflict erupts between the big four: Russia, Britain, France, and Germany. The USA will again be forced to intervene, no doubt.
III. NATO, the EU and the New Kids on the Block; The Lessons of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo
The Irish Elk roamed the earth 10,000 years ago. They had the largest pair of antlers ever grown - 3.6 meters (12 feet) across. Every year they grew new antlers from nubs prominently displayed on their heads. They were awesome to behold. They fought ferociously. They seemed eternal.
Then the weather changed. The earth shed its forests for a new Tundra attire. The Irish elk ignored this creeping revolution. It continued to grow its antlers and, by doing so, to deplete its own reserves of calcium and phosphorus. Drained of vital minerals, unable to find enough food to restore themselves they died out, their magnificent antlers intact.
NATO has emerged from its Pyrrhic victory in Kosovo shell shocked and riven by internal strains. The European Union (EU), in the name of `Euro-Atlantic Structures`, hurries to join NATO in the minefield it so unwisely occupies. Both are in danger of growing antlers too big for their own survival. There are three pairs of lethal antlers involved:
(a) Europe and Uncle Sam
The misnomered Operation Allied Force employed little force (much less than during the Gulf War) and tore the alliance apart. NATO has split into a nascent European military structure (the former defunct West European Union which was officially absorbed by the EU a fortnight ago) - and an American (rather, an Anglo-Saxon) avuncularly benevolent umbrella. Europeans have yet to recover from the detached, callous and off-handed manner of the mismanagement of the whole crisis by the amateurs in Washington. Their trust in America`s insight, foresight and sagacious hindsight has been shattered by American strategic mistakes, intelligence errors, diplomatic gaffes and internal squabbling in a poll-orientated administration. The Europeans emerged with a `never again` pledge. America is not likely to be invited to Europe`s parties any time soon. Europe is too much of a China shop and America - whether Republican or Democratic - too much of an elephant. As it were, there was no love wasted between these two constituents of NATO. Now they are effectively divorcing or, at least, going through a phase of not so amicable separation.
To this one should add the conflicting interests of members in this uncomfortable menage a 19.
Greece (aided and abetted by Iran) is already fighting proxy wars with Turkey throughout Central Eastern Asia (the Asian Republics of the former USSR), in Cyprus and in the former Yugoslavia. France is uneasy with the German-British Third Way and what it regards as a rapprochement between the two which threatens its privileged status in the EU. The poorer countries and the EU regional aid beneficiaries (not always the same group) are dead set against EU enlargement to the east. The list is very long.
(b) Central Europe
Disgusted by what they regarded as a superfluous and unnecessarily brutal war - the Central Europeans had the rudest awakening imaginable. They were forced to participate in a war effort within what they believed to be a defensive alliance. They joined NATO the introverted giant - and woke up to NATO the agile, hyperactive and violent neighbourhood cop. Hungary was forced to risk its ethnic kinfolk in Serbia`s Vojvodina region. The Czechs engaged in bruising internal verbal fistfights. It was not a seemly sight. The new Central European entrants joined the likes of Greece and Italy and recoiled from assisting the war effort in any meaningful way. The shock waves are likely to reverberate for longer and transform NATO`s commitment in Central Europe. It is not inconceivable to end up with a two-tier NATO: the fighting goons and the battle-shy, logistics-only allies.
This uneasy co-existence is made even less cosy by the clear reluctance of the EU to absorb the poor relatives to its east and south. Entry deadlines are habitually postponed, bureaucratic hurdles gleefully presented, sadistic reports about the Central Europeans` lack of progress periodically issued. No wonder the six eternal candidates feel rejected and abused. This humiliating misbehaviour on the part of the EU resulted in a turning of the tide. Opinion polls show growing opposition to the idea of Europe (in the Czech Republic, for instance) - unthinkable just two years ago. The countries of the Balkan area - the `New Associates` - constitute ominous competition for funds, attention and orientation, as far as the current future members are concerned. The Lucky Six (the Visegrad Trio, Slovenia, Cyprus) are likely to be relegated to the backburner now that the EU found a new toy, the Balkans. This will engender great bitterness and enmity between the EU and Central Europe and between Central Europe and the Balkanians. Hardly a recipe for orderly transition, for democracy, or for market economy.
(c) The Balkan Sore
The EU is known for its verbal pyrotechnics, its unlimited pool of enticing vision and its great spinning and marketing techniques. This arsenal is fully employed now to bedazzle the Balkan natives into happy submission to the seductive harmonies of the common market. The EU is dangling a cornucopean promise of eternal economic bliss in front of the bleeding, limb-torn statal rumps which comprise the former glory of Yugoslavia. But the targets of this brainwashing will do well to look to their Central European neighbors for an antidote. The `New Association` status offered to the likes of Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania and, later, Montenegro and perhaps, post-Milosevic Serbia is an ingenious piece of camouflage, a fata morgana, devoid of content. It is an evocation of hitherto repressed desires and it leads to self-delusion but it will amount to no serious attempt at integration by the EU.
The economic disparity between the aspirants and the current members is numbing. The average GDP per capita in Macedonia is c. 2500 USD per annum. This is the GDP produced by a Slovenian in 10 weeks, by a Greek and Portuguese in 8, by a German in 3 weeks. There is no convergence to talk of - the gap is increasing, not decreasing, especially following the Kosovo debacle. The legal system in these countries is biased against the individual, antiquated and totalitarian. Human and civil rights are foreign implants, inflammatorily rejected by the body politic. The economy is corrupt, nepotistic and cronyist. Crime organizations constitute a big part of the trading activities and maintain a heavy grip upon the political class. The media is mostly government-owned and manipulated. The Balkan simply is not European. It is Byzantine, Ottoman, Eastern, Orthodox. It belongs to Turkey and the Middle East, not to Frankfurt and Paris. It is closer to Moscow than to Leningrad. It will never be successfully subsumed by the West. Turkey has been trying for decades now and has been consistently (and perfunctorily) rejected by the EU. And Turkey is an important member of NATO and a country much more developed than the likes of Macedonia or Albania.
As these unpleasant truths emerge, the bitterness, resentment and disillusionment will grow and a backlash will develop. It might wear the guise of internal strife, of isolationist policies, of wounded retreat, of terrorism - all weapons of the deceived and trampled upon underdogs. It was wrong of the EU to promise what it can never deliver and couch it in deceptively ear soothing phrases. It will pay the price in added instability and ruin.
The Euro-Atlantic structures are evolving, assuming ever more ambitious and comprehensive goals, growing ever more impressive antlers. They roam the whole earth, administering human rights and free marketry. They impose their will. They are awesome to behold. But from within they are being depleted and consumed by their very own incoherence. It is the eternal cycle of prowess and vanquishment. NATO, an alliance in search of a cause, struggling to redefine itself and perpetuate its totally superfluous existence. The EU struggling to secure peaceful markets to its east and south. Europe struggling to assert itself. The USA struggling to secure its superiority in an emerging multi-polar, multi-ethnic, fractured world. All are fighting losing battles, wagging their antlers to and fro.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self
Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Global Politician, Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline, and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam`s Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com