TWQ: The EU's Test in Kosovo - Fall 2008
October 1, 2008
Yesterday's fierce arguments about Kosovo cast (Albanian) adherents of self-determination against (Serb) champions of sovereign rights. Today's more pragmatic feuds, half a year after Kosovo declared and began practicing "supervised independence," pit optimists against pessimists.
Without quite calling the exercise a slam dunk, European optimists claim that size, commitment, and geography all work in favor of the European Union's most ambitious foreign policy venture to date: building capacity in rule of law and the mentality to go with it in a land that has traditionally sought justice through personal connections. A senior German diplomat commented that "[w]e are doing so much for Kosovo in troops, money, and [the] EULEX [EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo]," referring to the 16,500 NATOled peacekeepers, the €2 billion the EU has poured into this land of 2.4 million people, and the offer of future EU membership. He added, "Kosovars know they are dependent on us. They know they have to reform."
Pessimists, on the contrary, contend that Kosovo's history, nonexistent infrastructure, and organized crime all render the EU's rule of law enterprise a mission impossible. Veteran Balkan journalist Misha Glenny glumly concluded, "The EU will now be lumbered with responsibility for a chronically dysfunctional state for many years to come."
History's judgment between these opposing convictions will, of course, decide the fate of Kosovo and the surrounding Balkans. It will also show, however, whether a common EU and transatlantic foreign policy is possible in the diffuse post–Cold War world, whether the West can ever succeed at would-be benign intervention in failed or failing states and in the experimental postconflict executive policing and institution building that this entails, and whether Europe can thwart organized crime in its own backyard.