The increasing difficulties of the process of Turkey entering the European Union contrasts with the progressive entry “piece by piece” of the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia is already a member and Croatia is starting its integration process while proposals to integrate the other Balkan countries multiply).
This contrast is all the more striking if one compares the evolution in public opinion with regard to the EU in the various countries concerned. In Turkey, the image of the EU and prospect for integration have been deteriorating regularly since the end of 2004 (the symbolic date of the EU “green light” to negotiations); whereas in the countries of former Yugoslavia the opposite trend can be seen.
As far as the European public opinion is concerned, with a general background of “tiredness” with the endless enlargement, the team of LEAP/E2020 notes an essential evolution which can explain these divergent developments: European citizens now reject two very specific elements of the enlargement, namely on the one hand “big” enlargements which imply countries with large populations which can call into question the great internal balance of the EU, and on the other hand, enlargements which “do not finalize” the European construction but which, on the contrary, push identity and limits towards more uncertainty.
Under these conditions, it is not surprising to see a strong and increasing popular opposition to the integration of Turkey or the Ukraine (which does not even have the statute of a candidate), whereas the integration of the Balkans, without raising enthusiasm, does not cause strong oppositions. Indeed, the accession of Turkey or the Ukraine to the EU would involve a fundamental redefinition of the identity of the EU and its limits; whereas the integration of the Balkan countries seems a “completion” of the work of a continental unity started 50 years ago. In addition, the populations concerned in the Balkans are proportionally very small compared with those of the EU, whereas Turkey or Ukraine would imply demographic upheavals in the EU.
For the researchers of LEAP/E2020, who are convinced that the only internal political force in the EU is now on the side of the public opinion28 (since the institutions lack legitimacy, operational competence and vision for the future), the evolution of the relations of the EU with Turkey and the Ukraine on the one hand, and with the Balkan countries on the other hand, is thus easy to anticipate and has only a very little to do with the official agenda of the EU. Future enlargements are indeed as much out of reach of institutional decisions as the future of the EU constitutional project. Neither Turkey, nor Ukraine will enter the EU in the twenty years to come. However, at the same time, and even in a period of one decade, the whole of the Balkans will be integrated into the EU…
Read more in the GEAB No 6 / 16.06.2006