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The future of the Balkans in terms of Brexit
Material posted: Publication date: 11-04-2017

June 23, 2016 – a day that has become a part not only in the history of Britain but of the entire European Union. One of the most global events, Brexit has caused a strong reaction around the world, reviving antiintegration processes in countries that have long podolyanchyk on withdrawal from the EU.

As you know, one of the key players "chess-Board" of the EU is the Balkans, the position of which is not unequivocal. In the same way as it is impossible to speak with confidence about what Brexit will not be able to exert strong influence on these States not understand what motivates those countries, what are their motives and what course they ultimately choose?

To answer the question, you can understand how a strong separatist sentiment within these countries, and how beneficial to them membership in the Union.

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia – countries with different and sometimes very conflicting interests, all of them, however, are United by the desire to become part of the European Union, an aspiration, however, is not always supported by actions.

Interests, first mentioned in the list, the States are defined by the fact that 1/6 of the country is unemployed, with a low of 4 thousand dollars of GDP (according to the world Bank), and therefore, the country can hardly claim the role of a full member of the EU. Nevertheless, more and more clearly visible the course of Albania's rapprochement with the EU, which, including, can be seen in the fact that Albania will be forced to introduce to the Russian visa regime, which will also cripple the country's economy (recall that earlier, the visa regime was abolished for the summer periods). At the same time do not understand the motives of Brussels on this issue. Already it is obvious the fact that any such "extensions" at the expense of poor countries lead to an increase in separatist sentiment in Western European countries, the increase of the nationalist parties, and as a consequence, the emergence of different ideas about a possible referendum, and therefore, in the case of this country to expect a positive decision in terms of EU membership, even after a Brexit'not possible.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – a country that, for obvious reasons, falls short not economic, not socio – political terms to the level of a state member of the EU, however, is actively moving towards rapprochement with the Union. A study of the membership application from Bosnia and Herzegovina began on 15 February 2016, although, according to analysts, before the entry is still far. The state's position can be traced in the words of a Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvezdica: " we are experiencing a truly historic moment relating to the definition of Europe and European future of Bosnia and Herzegovina". This is one of the most pleasant news for Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially for young people." At the same time, the situation after Brexit, according to one of the Bosnian leaders, Bakir Izetbegovic, a dangerous game which can lead to conflicts in Bosnia and the Balkans.

Montenegro with the EU binds a 10-year dialogue about the future of the partnership. In 2006, Montenegro held a referendum about integration, and in 2010 received the status of candidate country. Significant in this respect 2008year: an agreement was signed on the abolition of visas between Montenegro and the Schengen space. Recall that the EU is currently the main partner of Montenegro (40% of imports and 48% of exports). During the period from 1998 to 2013, the country received more than 600mn. Euro. More than 54% of the population believes that the country will benefit from accession to the EU. In addition, Montenegro has achieved the greatest success in the negotiations with the EU, she managed to open 22 of the 35 chapters, which are these negotiations. However, it is increasingly clear the threat of the entry of Montenegro into NATO, forcing Russia to play VA-Bank. If not to prevent this event, at least, Russia will try to delay the process. It seems wrong to assume that Russia has in the region no leverage. Energy, economic, ethnic and religious factors of influence belonging to Russia on the Balkan Peninsula. On a hand plays also the fact that the closure of the external borders of Hungary and Croatia, a huge flow of refugees, in fact, left the Balkans. However, Montenegrin Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic confident that Britain's decision will not affect the rate selected Balkan countries: "Britain's Decision to withdraw from the EU gave an impetus to all anti-European movements that are now trying to revive the illusion that there is an alternative path. But no reasonable person in the Balkans do not want to follow him."

Serbia's position seems more complicated. "Fair approach," according to Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is maneuvering between Russia and the EU. The country shares the EU's position towards Ukraine, but refuses to join the sanctions against Russia. Serbia receives from the EU 1.1 billion Euro under the Instrument for assistance, but intends to maintain good relations with Russia. The duality of policy is reinforced by the statement of Aleksandar Vučić: "...we are traditionally bound with Russia, but at the same time support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine". The latest polls show that the idea of joining the EU would support 60% citizens and 40% would oppose it, while the number of "opponents" of European integration has grown substantially over the last ten years. It can already be seen in the results of the April elections to the Parliament of the Serbian national party and the coalition "Doors of the Democratic party of Serbia".

Thus, the position of the candidate countries the EU is more or less clear, as evidenced by their efforts in the implementation of EU rules guaranteeing that the country, both in economic and in socio-political terms "worthy" to be a member of the Union, otherwise the process of European integration would be inhibited, as it happened in Iceland.

As for the EU members on the Balkan Peninsula, there is a need to trace how strong antiintegration processes and separatist sentiments in these countries.

Sentiment among Bulgarians fluctuate between sympathy for the Russian and fear of the Imperial ambitions of Russia. Bulgaria and the Russian Federation connects writing, religion, history. But at the same time, there is fear that Bulgaria will again be able to fall under the Russian sphere of influence. The confrontation between "Russophiles" and "Russophobes" ends with the victory of the one, the other. However, even in the memory of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, after which it was restored Bulgarian statehood. In fact, Bulgaria is a full member of the European Union, therefore, required even more than Serbia to support the EU's position on Ukraine. This is one of the factors of influence, namely energy has a significant impact on Bulgaria. Therefore, the question of which course to choose is quite controversial. The most relevant example is the gas pipeline "South stream". Bulgaria, under pressure from the EU had to halt work on the site, despite the fact that participation in the project to promise the country a discount on Russian gas, and guaranteed delivery. Moreover, the "South stream" thousands of jobs, billions of investment, and therefore, in this question the majority of the Bulgarians for the South stream, and therefore against Brussels.

The Governor of South Aegean region of Greece Giorgos Hatzinakos in a special appeal asked the European Commission to allow visa-free travel to KOs, Lesvos, Chios, Samos, etc. also of Interest is the construction of the pipeline "Poseidon in Greece". At the same time, a difficult situation in the economy: according to the foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation, under the influence of negative external factors, the trade turnover of Russia in January – July of 2016 by 9.8% compared to the same period last year. However, in General, the interest of Russian investors to Greece is not quenched: " can be projects on modernization and construction of port, airport, rail infrastructure, ports of Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, highway Egnatia, freight rail service between Alexandroupolis and Burgas in Bulgaria. And is recovery perfectly previously worked for the cruise line on the Black sea between the countries of the region with visits to the Russian, Turkish and Greek ports," - said Deputy Minister of transport of the Russian Federation Sergey Aristov. Thus, in the current situation, in the interests of Greece to use all possible means to attract additional funds to the country that we can observe: in terms of sanctions have to change the forms of cooperation, but already there are projects of creation of joint enterprises in the light industry (food: dairy and fish products).

Regarding Croatia, it is impossible to give accurate estimates, largely due to the uncertain mood of the country's population. EU membership had President Ivo Josipovic, was full of headlines leading Croatian newspaper "Jutarni sheet", but now, on the question of the benefits of being in the EU population is split.

Being a full member of the EU, Slovenia had to join the anti-Russian sanctions, though with great displeasure that is not surprising: according to the Minister of foreign Affairs Karl Erjavec, the ban on economic cooperation with Russia will result in the loss of 1.3% of GDP of Slovenia. "I, as foreign Minister, absolutely not encouraged by the sanctions, which were imposed by the EU, especially in Economics. I am convinced that we can't solve an international crisis so that the sanctions were imposed in Economics. It is always a great deal of damage to economy, for business — as in Russia and Slovenia," he said at a conference in Moscow of the Russian-Slovenian business meeting.

We can say that Romania is much more than the rest, made for integration, however what many Romanians are expected, she has not received, namely the opportunity to work across the EU (Romania was given the right to work only in some countries of the Union), and the country remained one of the poorest in the EU. The gross national income per capita is 6440 euros. For comparison, in France the figure is 34 000 euros, and in Poland – 9480 euros. However, according to Eurostat, in recent years, some regions of Romania have registered growth rates exceeding the European average. For example, GDP per capita of the Western region of Romania is 23% above the European average. At the same time, even now some skeptics openly declare that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania was a mistake. "We understand perfectly: after the fall of the Berlin wall, you've got freedom and democracy. For you, it's fantastic. We also perfectly understand why they want to join NATO. Because it's a way of saying, "goodbye, Moscow!". But joining the EU can result in huge historic mistake for the country because you entered into a system that is much more than the one you left 20 years ago," said British MEP Nigel Farage.

All of the above the above brings us to following: the decision of the British people to withdraw from the European Union has put countries from the Western Balkans to choose between EU and Russia. Even if, Brexit will not adversely affect the process of European integration, at least, this process will be delayed. At the same time, more radical analysts believe that Brussels will be busy with its internal problems and not be able to prevent Moscow to restore the former power and influence in the Balkans, in fact, the last and considered to be one of the most important negative consequences of a British exit from the EU. The Balkans need to "fill the vacuum" left by Britain's withdrawal, which, however, is purely a fashion character, because, even taken together, all of these countries will not be able to replace the contribution of Britain to the EU. Immediately after Brexit, sounded assessment of the ineffectiveness of the EU, with a hint of the countries candidates for accession to the EEC, as an alternative to the EU. The idea that as a result of a Brexit'won only Russia continues to gain momentum (although, from an economic point of view, this is a very controversial issue). Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, believes that after Brexit'a Pro-Russian European politicians have become stronger. According to him, in recent decades, the West was United, and the East was disintegrated, after a Brexit'this trend began to change: now Europe is weakening, and Russia and its allies are gaining strength. However, it seems that the EU has failed to develop a clear course: some believe that we should take immediately Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, while others believe that it will lead to organized crime, ethnic and religious problems, economic instability. All this creates favorable conditions for Russia to engage the countries of the region in the implementation of energy, infrastructure and other facilities, the possibility of bilateral contacts with the opposition forces who oppose European integration and can become a reliable partner of Russia. Now, a lot depends on what the line will stick to Brussels. You can say that the EU has lost influence in the region three years ago, when Jean-Claude Juncker announced that during his presidency (until 2019.) new countries in the Union will not. This is largely determined by the position of the Balkans in recent times. The President of Macedonia G. Ivanov has rejected the demand of the EU, NATO to appoint a Pro-Western Prime Minister. Albanians in opposition to the wishes of NATO and the EU have stated that they intend to create a private army. Moreover, the President of the Republic of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci has not canceled its decision even after NATO issued a pretty tough statement with similar to the order's request to abandon these plans. It would be foolish to assume that the Balkans are not aware of the consequences of their actions - after all, the EU is the largest trading partner for them. However, given that China, Turkey, Gulf countries are ready to invest in the Balkans, without any influence on their policy, such behavior is understandable. I must say that the EU as a whole in recent times does not act as a United front. Spain thinks of concessional loans, France - on how to entice the London bankers, Hungary wants to lose their emergency redistribution of subsidies. "The Domino effect" becomes a real threat for the EU.

Elizabeth Tikhon

Tags: Russia , USA , Balkans

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