>Reintegrating the Balkans – trains, planes and automobiles

>A guest lecture at SSEES by Erhardt Busek, Co-ordinator of the EU’s Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe discussing the region’s shift From Stabilization to Integration. ‘Integration’ in this context means states in the region working with each other to take over the programmes and structures created and administered top-down by the EU , rather than actually joining the EU – Macedonia’s candidate status means little as there are no negotiations, Croatia is better placed and might make into the Union by 2010 despite Slovene objections over various unresolved issues between the two coutries. Regional integration, Busek makes clear, in this context is about practical everyday infrastuctural links – waste water, air links, bridges, river management and rail links (something the World Bank also has an interest in) – which now loom larger than security, despite the unstable situation in Kosovo/a . I couldn’t help wondering if this basically technocratic, economistic view of what drives integration would really cut it with the realities of nationalism and identity, despite the dying away of violent interethnic conflict.

Dr Busek speaks in calm, understated way – more as if briefing a group of seven than addressing to an audience of seventy – doesn’t waffle and finishes his presentation on time in about 40 minutes. I like his style. Questions immediately raise the issue of Kosovan final status and it is suggested that the EU really should take education into the acquis so it can intervene to put South Eastern Europe’s dilapidated higher education system into order, which has been bled dry by the departure of talented young for the West or better paid work elsewhere.

Through a haze of fatigue, my mind wanders and I can’t help thinking of him as a kind of latter reincarnation of Austro-Hungarian adminsitrator patiently sorting the woes of the Balkans. Dr Busek is a Christian Democrat, but I then began to think of Hayek’s(or was it von Mises’s?) vision of a Europe run from Vienna by a multinational bureaucracy of neutral West Europeans dissolving the failed Ruritanian nation states into a new market- liberal order. The EU is, of course, has democratic as well as bureaucratic structure and is more of a social-liberal compromise (Busek is Christian Democrat). Still Dr Busek gets my vote – except that he doesn’t need it, of course.

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