As Serbia accepts Montenegrin independence, and the EU makes encouraging noises, is it true, as an interesting OpenDemocracy article has it, that “in much of east-central Europe, the European Union tends to be seen as an updated version of an earlier communist utopia (“From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”), but ï¿½ for better or worse ï¿½ the carrot of European integration is the best hope anyone has for long-term stability in Europe’s troubled deep south”?
Certainly the potential for EU membership has helped inspire Turkey to push forward with liberalisation, and has been cited as a positive force in countries throughout the former Soviet bloc (irritating Russia no end), but how long will it take to get our eastern neighbours up to an acceptable standard – both economically and socially?
Can the promise of future EU membership overcome the highly localised identies – not usually national, more based on clan systems, language, religion, ethnicity and myriad other differences – that seem endemic throughout the eastern half of the continent (including the tiny Montenegro)?
Having already failed to prepare existing EU members, institutions and procedures for the 10 new member states that joined two years ago (the ongoing constitutional dilemma), as well as an internal rethink, should the EU also look again at its apparent policy of hinting that membership is possible for anyone, or is the ideal just as important as the reality? Would it even be possible to come up with a coherent EU enlargement policy with such diverse countries – and would it even be sensible?
Either way, something needs to be done.