The Motor of the Balkans

Slovenia less than a year away from taking over the EU Presidency

, by Jacopo Barbati

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

The Motor of the Balkans

The first turn of the EU Presidency in 2008 is going to Slovenia, the first country of the newcomers entering the European Union in 2004 to be given such a role. Thus, demonstrating that the Adriatic state occupies a first class position, and, as Barroso stated in one of his official visits in 2006, one of the emerging realities at the European level.

Thanks especially to its political class, who demonstrated a concrete effort in this sense: enough to remember that Slovenia was the third state, after Lithuania and Hungary, to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, on 1 February 2005, the first to acquire the necessary conditions for the adoption of the Euro (the common currency was introduced on 1 January 2007) and in December 2007 Slovenia will become a member of the Schengen area.

Again: one of the first states, among the newcomers in the EU, being able to increment the GDP (+ 1,53% nel 2003) and for the utilization of European funds – it was the Prime Minister Janez Janša, very sensitive to this kind of topics, to propose numerous amendments to the Slovenian Parliament to facilitate their use and to revise, with the collaboration of Janez Potočnik – Commissioner for Science and Research – the methods of approaching the goals of the Lisbon strategy, in order to achieve better results.

Slovenia could assume a model role for the Balkan states.

Furthermore, some new economic measures – in neoliberal style – were introduced that will, according to the Minister of Economy Andrej Vizjak, lead Slovenia to a new tax environment, reform of the labour market and to a higher competitiveness until 2010. This will be possible thanks to a relatively high investment in the areas of development and research.

A Model for the Balkans

That is why, in light of the EU Presidency, Slovenia is going to vest a model role for Balkan states with ambitions of joining the European Union (two of them, Croatia and Macedonia already hold the status of official candidates to join the EU, without forgetting Montenegro that, after last year’s independency, started to be active on European level) or aspire to do so in the future.

We all know that the situation in the Balkans is still complex: Slovenia and Croatia faced recently some discrepancies on issues of national borders. But, since the war finished 10 years ago, the times have changed enough to consider Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro and Serbia (attending results for the final status of Kosovo) a potential source for Europe.

If states are, in fact, following the best and Balkan-proved model of the most Nordic state of the Balkans, investing money in research and allowing slight modifications in socio-economic systems to achieve better performance in adapting to community situations, the Balkans could play an important role in a Europe of the future.

Initial Fears of Citizens

Regardless of a positive situation, the citizens of Slovenia expressed their concern more than once especially in the period of entering the Union: fearing that the open borders to other 24 EU states will cause a bigger influx of workers from East offering their services for lower salaries compared to Slovenian standards.

...the Balkans could play an important role in a Europe of the future.

This, in fact, did not happen. Therefore, at the end of 2004, the number of foreign workers (coming from an EU member state) was 1.616 – out of 2 million inhabitants of Slovenia – and 1.070 of them were Slovak.

The poles of 2005 have shown a particular mistrust in entering EU: 60% of the interviewed declared the life remained the same after entering EU, 7% found it better but 33% claimed life got worse.

Still in 2005, approximately one year after entering EU, the percentage of the population claming to be favourable to Slovenia entering EU was 52%, not a high one, but definitely better than 40% of one year before.

The increase of the percentage testifies the shift in consciousness also among the population, of the advantages the European Union offers to Slovenia and of the ascending role this state is assuming, on the European panorama, of a leading motor for the Balkan Peninsula.

This article was translated by Mitja Sabadin and proofread by Peter Matjašič.

Image source: rav8/Flickr

The dragon is one of the symbols of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

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