From 1 to 4 December 2019 I was on a promotional tour in Serbia for the Serbian edition of my book „Was wird aus der Europäischen Union? Geschichte und Zukunft„. A total of five newspaper interviews, one radio and one television interview had to be conducted as well as four lecture and discussion events.
The topic of EU accession is clearly a hot topic in Serbia, since the accession process is not coming off the mark. The EU is not particularly interested in accelerating the process, but may underestimate the frustration in the Western Balkans and the risks.
The lecture to Matica Srpska, Novi Sad, on 3 December dealt with the question of the EU future of the Western Balkan countries in a broader context.
Thesis II: The EU is Europe’s most dynamic force,
so it is good to be a member
 After the Second World War, numerous European and international organisations were founded. The European Coal and Steel Community was limited to 50 years, it ended in 2002; the Western European Union, founded in 1948, ended in 2011 – both organisations have to some extent merged into the EU. The EFTA (European Free Trade Association), founded in 1960 and less binding than the EEC founded in 1957, still exists, but three of the last four members, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, are also members of the EEA (European Economic Area), an „EU light“ with 30 or 31 members.
 The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance existed from 1949 to 1991, while its western counterpart, the OEEC, founded in 1948, continues to exist under the slightly changed name of OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).
 In the meantime, the Eurasian Economic Union (2014) has been founded under the leadership of the Russian Federation, to which Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan also belong. Other more recent foundations, to which Serbia also belongs, are the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (since 1992) and the CEFTA (Central European Free Trade Agreement) (also since 1992 with a greatly changed membership).
 Founded in Belgrade in 1961, the Non-Aligned Movement, which still exists today, extended beyond Europe from the outset. The UN was the successor to the League of Nations; the latter had been strongly European in character, and the UN was international from the outset, but no less important for Europe.
 The largest organization in terms of the number of member countries today is the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation), which comprises 57 states. Some are located at least geographically only partly in Europe, such as the Russian Federation and Turkey, and not in Europe, such as Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the USA. After the Second World War, the OSCE or its predecessor, the CSCE, was the first joint, predominantly European organization of the two blocs, and through it human rights, civil rights and the rule of law became a decisive basis for the idea of European unity.
 Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is the second largest organisation with 47 member countries, but Belarus is not one of them. Kosovo is not one of them because, unlike Belarus, it is not recognised as a state by all countries. Canada, Japan, Mexico and the USA have observer status, as do Israel and the Holy See. The Europe of the Council of Europe should be built above all through human rights, the promotion of culture and, in particular, of young people.
 Finally, the EU, in principle the youngest European organisation, founded in 1992 with the Treaty of Maastricht, which does of course date back to the EEC of 1957.
 The EU is one of the largest economic powers in the world. Citizens can move freely within the EU because of European citizenship rights, they can live and work where they want, they enjoy the same rights everywhere. The EU is not yet a state of its own, but it now has many of the characteristics of a state, which benefits the economy, people and culture.
 One of the EU’s most important objectives remains to increase prosperity across the EU. This is difficult and lengthy, but there have been many successes. Those who belong to the EU are part of a solidarity community and benefit from the money that the members pay into the EU budget. The economically weaker countries receive subsidies that are higher than their contribution to the budget. This is probably one aspect that makes the EU particularly attractive for accession.
 It is also true that the EU contributes to the maintenance of peace. War has become pointless because peace in the EU is the only source of great wealth.
 The EU forms a common judicial area in which legal stability prevails. That is particularly valuable today when you look at countries where arbitrariness is the norm: Russian Federation, China, Turkey, USA, etc. If the economy is to flourish, it needs legal stability, and people need to be sure that their rights are guaranteed and protected.
 The EU stands for a particular model of society as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union: „The values on which the Union is founded are respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to all Member States in a society characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men“.
 Unfortunately, such a social model is now being violently combated by many states. Among those should be mentioned critically some important „partners“ of the EU, the Russian Federation, China, Turkey and the current US government which.
 Every country wishing to join the EU must check for itself whether it is in line with this model of society. Living pluralism and non-discrimination requires a national effort. It is not only the government of a country that must want this, but also its citizens. And we must be prepared to defend this social model against its opponents.
 The EU also makes it clear that „Europe“ – to be more precise: „European Union“ – today means more than Europe. On the one hand, today’s 27 respectively 28 members belong geographically completely to Europe, on the other hand, several member countries like France still have overseas territories despite the end of colonialism. The EU, for example, borders directly on Canada, since the islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon are French. Not to mention the possessions of EU countries in the Caribbean or the Pacific, not to mention the Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco.
 Many countries on earth now have a close relationship with the EU without being members. This must be taken into account when defining exactly what the EU is. It is more than the 27 or 28 member countries. It is less and less about Europe, but more and more about a global context.
 As the world grew larger in the 15th century from a European perspective, Europe was increasingly defined by demarcation and the description of differences. In our time, the opposite is happening: Europe is becoming more and more global and defining itself globally. Of course, demarcations still play a role, but they run along global lines.
 This brief historical retrospective shows that whoever wants to join the EU today joins less a European organisation than a global one. When, after 1945, the old dream of common European political institutions came true, the rules of the game for the idea of Europe changed. The adjective „European“ in the name „European Union“ refers to the origin and seat of the Union in Europe, but now means much more than just Europe.
Documentation: The programme of the promotional tour has been organized by Clio publishers (Belgrade). For the round table at the Institute of European Studies, Belgrade, see the institute’s homepage. The round table was organized by the institute’s director dr Miša Đurković.
Reference: Wolfgang Schmale: European Union Future for Western Balkans Countries, in: Mein Europa, Blog: https://wolfgangschmale.eu/european-union-future-for-western-balkans-countries-2.