Subheading: and he does not realise it.
Yesterday, EuObserver published an article written by the Kosovar journalist Ekrem Krasniqi. I strongly recommend you, dear reader, to have a look at that article and, if you do not faint because of the, somehow intoxicating use of the modal verb “shall”, I beg you to come back to this blog and read what I have to say on the matter.
One can be disturbed by Krasniqi’s article for many reasons: some could be Serbian nationalists, and therefore angry at a Kosovar journalist by default; some could disagree with his vision of the EU as a weak political actor; some might simply hate his writing “style”.
However, the reason why I utterly despise the article is the idea it carries, the image Krasniqi gives of the Kosovar government, scoring the clumsiest, goofiest auto-goal ever against Kosovo. I humbly deplore his article because he brutally demonstrates that my criticism of EU’s enlargement and neighboring policy towards the Balkans might have theoretically solid base, but it has to face the abrupt reality of ignorance and political idiocy of Balkan ruling class. And apparently, also of Balkan media.
I am pretty sure, dear reader, that if you ended up reading this blog you are somehow accustomed with the concept of acquis communautaire, the pantagruelic sum of norms derived from EU’s legal production, with which every candidate country has to comply before joining the club.
Lately, in my MA thesis which hopefully will be published soon, I compare EU enlargement with the theoretical backbone of colonisation: the “standard of civilisation“. I am not alone in criticising the very core of the acquis: in 2003 Silva and Sampson theorised that the acquis communautaire can be defined as the 21st century genealogy of new colonial paradigm within the EU borders. Why?
The concept of standard of civilisation originates from the early theories of international law. Prerequisites to be considered a State were (and still are) effective control over certain territory and legitimate rule over a populace subject to the State control. But those prerequisites were not enough to define entities worth to be considered as equals by the European powers. The standard of civilisation can be described as the law of those nations which are “civilised”, as opposed to “non-civilised barbarian tribes”:
“One can define a “law” or “standard of civilization” as an expression of the assumptions, tacit and explicit, used to distinguish those that belong to a particular society from those that do not. By definition, “hose who fulfill the requirements of a particular society’s standard of civilization are brought inside its circle of ‘civilized’ members, while those who do not so conform are left outside as ‘not civilized’ or possibly ‘uncivilized’.”
(Silva & Sampson, 2003).
Therefore, standard of civilisation had three major functions.
First, it has been used as a legal framework, as a principle of international law dividing the world in three major categories: civilised countries, semi-civilised countries and barbarians. This division reflects the need of modern European powers for reliable and equal partners in the colonies. Civilised and semi-civilised countries were considered as such in case they could bear the burden of reciprocity with European countries, in terms of rights, obligations and expectations of the political interaction.
Therefore, the second implicit function of the standard of civilisation is to it sort among different territories and cultures, legitimizing the European colonisation over certain territories rather than others, basing such legitimisation on the level of civilisation encountered. The “white man’s burden” and its French version “mission civilisatrice” were internationally applied by the Berling Congress and were further used by the League of Nations in order to legitimise the protectorate, an international law instrument to perpetrate colonialism.
Thirdly, the standard of civilisation became an hegemonic idea. No relations between European and non-European countries could take place without the compliance of the latter with the European standards.
Now, doesn’t it look like EU’s enlargement strategy? No? Substitute the words “standard of civilisation” with “acquis communautarie“, “civilisation” with “European identity” and the game is pretty done. Therefore, one might say that the enlargement process is in fact a revised version of the French “acquis colonial”, i.e. an attempt to “civilise” barbarian, philistine, inferior cultures and elevate them at the European level. One might also say that this is what is happening right now in Serbia, or in Montenegro, or, even more, in Kosovo, where the “mission civilisatrice” has a clear name and an international mandate: EULEX.
Of course, it is not that easy. I have discussed these theories in my MA thesis, describing the current enlargement process and providing a solid theoretical base to each and every word posted on this article. My point is not to demonstrate that the EU is in fact colonising the Balkans. I am rather trying to stimulate a critical thinking over the way certain EU’s policies are developed and put in place. So, now that I have ironically used the “lite version” of my MA thesis’ arguments as a crowbar to dis-embed your belief over the EU’s neighborhood policy, it’s time to go back to the objective of this article: the Kosovar journalist’s proposals for a German restoration of Kosovo.
Let us assume that EU enlargement and neighborhood policy are in fact driven by neo-colonial practices. What Krasniqi is proposing in its article is a brutal, consensual taking over of Kosovo by German authorities, which shall in fact establish a real State over a territory which is now in the lap of the gods (and therefore, as Krasniqi describes it, it is not a State…). The Kosovar journalist foresees a better future for Kosovo and for the whole region if the Germans would export their education system, their political system, their economic system (and I guess he didn’t went further just for editorial reasons…), on the base of 20-years long contract.
To my eyes, in the light of the previous part of this article, Krasniqi’s proposal looks like the African/Indian/Asian/you name it local chieftain requesting the support of the East India Company. Quoting from Krasniqi: “Germany should install its experts in key Kosovo government departments” as, for example, the UK did in India, Iran, Burma, or as France did in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, or as Germany and later Belgium did in Congo, or as other European powers did in countless other political entities scattered on the globe, disappeared because of the colonial era.
To use modern terminology, Krasniqi implicitly defines Kosovo as a non-State failed State: Kosovo declared its independence, but apparently it is not able to enforce it and therefore it is not a State; however, Kosovo represents a threat to the security and stability of the whole region because of its failed government, its criminal economy and its bad relationships with neighbors, making it a look alike to a failed State.
Amazing. This goes beyond the wildest dream of the craziest CIA political analyst.
I find Krasniqi’s proposal simply ridiculous. It is in fact so ridiculous that I am seriously challenged to consider it is a badly made attempt to criticise the Kosovar government and the international community (which is responsible for the current situation in the Balkans, as Krasniqi rightfully reports). If it is not a boutade, and if there are people in Kosovo which would agree with such a proposal, I believe that most probably what they deserve is indeed a neo-colonialist regime, at the edge of Europe, in the 21st century, over a territory which experienced war, perpetual instability and a fake 5-years freedom.
Maybe it is true, as Santayana says, that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Apparently Kosovar journalists and politicians should go back to school.