“If ignored by the West, the Balkans risk turning into a Russian-Turkish condominium”

Paul Ciocoiu | BALKAN DEFENSE | 08.06.2015

In the third part of the exclusive interview to BalkanDefense, Dan Dungaciu, director of the Romanian Academy’s Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations, warns the EU against neglecting the Balkans or else the region will become even harder to manage in the years to come.

What about the Balkans? Balkans are still coping with a lot of problems, see recent unrest in Macedonia, illegal immigration, lingering ethnic tensions etc, but they are off the agenda at the moment.

I think that a big failure of the Romanian diplomacy is the Balkans failure. Of course, in the beginning it was hard to assume, because there were mighty forces there – Germany, the US-led coalition, Russia, but at the moment Romania’s got the largest GDP in the area, it even exceeded Greece, it has become the state most consistent strategically – a functional democracy, a strategic consistence which allows it to be an EU, NATO member state, have a strategic partnership with USA regardless of the political elite in power. We are not like the Bulgarians…

So are we truly an oasis of stability in this region?

We are indeed! Because we have this strategic consistence which makes rise beyond Bulgaria which whether it has a socialist government or not it runs more towards Russia or America. We are not Hungary’s goulash-putinism…we are not either Serbia or Ukraine. So, having this most consistent GDP in the region, not taking care of the Balkans’ issue…we’ve only done that stupid trilateral Romania-Serbia-Bulgaria which is totally dysfunctional and which shows there is no policy behind, but a bureaucratic one. We’ve had no policy concerning the Balkans, no strategy, especially since we had a good starting point – the fact we didn’t recognize Kosovo. What is our relation with Serbia now, for instance? None! Serbians are simply making up, Soviet-style, an alphabet for the Vlachs down there, allegedly since it is a different language, they are still not allowed to pray in churches in their own language, those are purely aberrant issues. So what is your vision about the Balkans? There is no such vision in my opinion. Romania as a very consistent Romanian/Aromanian minority in the Balkans, you have many historic relations with countries in the region, so find a starting point, project a vision. Those are weak economies, compared to them the Romanian economy is performing, we have this relation with Bulgaria, Romania is probably its second largest trade partner. So there are these things that have to be put down on paper to discuss, as you correctly put it, no one is discussing it anymore. I have the feeling no one is talking about the Balkans unless crimes or the immediate integration are involved, see the Croatian case. There is this risk of looking at the Balkans based on a Middle East like scenario which Romania should warn about – seeking only stability, democracy doesn’t matter anymore if it’s peace down there – a peace which will not produce anything, but on the contrary, will erupt, see the recent turmoil in Macedonia. Or Turkey scenario – indefinite negotiations. But these things have to be avoided.

“Neglected, the Balkans will be even harder to manage in a few years”

We understand EU has blocked its eastward extension, as Junker announced, which is a bad signal. But the Balkans, whose most countries have a very clearly set objective – joining the EU – should not be neglected. Something has to happen, EU has to embark upon a more stressed dynamic as concerns the Balkans because, if it doesn’t do so, and this one thing Romania has to warn about, Turkey or Russia will. We will in a few years wake up seeing the Balkans, if ignored, even harder to manage. And this is what Romania has to point out, because this is its neighborhood. The Western Balkans and the eastern project (Eastern Partnership) have to be put on the same level because, at least from the perspective of Russia’s interests, the two projects intersect. So Romania has to assume this leadership in the Balkans because, if we wait more, the Balkans will become a Turkish-Russian condominium impossible to dismantle and this is what Romania has to warn EU and USA about.