European Affairs

Not long after war-fighting stopped in Kosovo last summer, leaders from Europe and North America traveled to Sarajevo. They stayed just a few hours. They came to sign a piece of paper: The Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.

The role of the European Union is spelled out in three paragraphs of the Pact. Among other statements, one reads there, that "We welcome the European Union's initiative in launching the Stability Pact and the leading role the EU is playing... We warmly welcome the European Union's readiness to actively support the countries in the region and to enable them to achieve the objectives of the Stability Pact... The EU will draw the region closer to the perspectives of full integration of these countries into its structures..."

The Stability Pact also proposes a leading role for the international finance institutions - the IMF and the World Bank and, in Europe, the EBRD and the EIB. "We rely on them," reads the Pact, "to develop a coherent international assistance strategy for the region and to promote sound macro-economic and structural policies by the countries concerned."

As the United States led the war effort, so the European Union is to lead the post-war effort. Is this happening? Not fast enough to suit the expectations of those who are counting on it - the citizens of South Eastern Europe. Political leaders there, and journalists covering the area, lament the slow progress to date. That means that Europe's diplomats and aid experts are thin on the ground, as is real money from Brussels.

The stakes are not imaginary. A failure to deliver on the promises of the Stability Pact could hoist the signers with their own petard. Will the leaders of countries like Bulgaria and Romania - adherents to the gospel of reform and markets and democratization - be voted out of office by a populace that has lost faith in Western models and Western allies?

Granted, the Stability Pact is but a blueprint, or a framework, for the real work. But if this real work is not forthcoming soon, it would have been better not to propose it. The ball is squarely in the EU's court. I hope Brussels will accelerate its effort to make the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe a success.

Michael H. Haltzel
Washington, DC


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number I, Issue number I in the Winter of 2000.