Central Europeans Resist Merkel’s Immigration Policy

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán arrives for a meeting with other European People's Party leaders, December 13, 2012
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán arrives for a meeting with other European People’s Party leaders, December 13, 2012 (EPP)

Germany is supposed to have huge influence in Central Europe where countries depend on it — Europe’s largest economy — for investment and manufacturing jobs. Yet Chancellor Angela Merkel has failed to translate this influence into support for her generous immigration policy. Read more

Prospects for Increased Balkan Security Cooperation Dim

American soldiers participate in a police training mission at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, April 6, 2011
American soldiers participate in a police training mission at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, April 6, 2011 (US Army/Evan V. Lane)

Southeastern European countries that were once joined in Yugoslavia battle similar economic and security challenges yet prospects for enhanced cooperation in both areas seem dim.

Many of the West Balkan republics are coping with economic stagnation and high organized crime rates, the roots of which can often be traced to the political top, frustrating efforts to curb them. Regional cooperation to strengthen economies ties as well as the fight against organized crime promises improvement but chances of a true security community emerging are slim.

In 1957, the Czechoslovak, later American, political scientist Karl W. Deutsch defined a security community as a region where war is most unlikely to occur and members share the expectation of finding peaceful solutions to disputes. He identified two types of security communities: pluralistic and amalgamated. In the latter, member states surrender some of their sovereignty to a supreme decisionmaking body. Given the former Yugoslavian states’ recent struggles for independence, that is unlikely to transpire in the short term.

For a pluralistic security community to emerge, Deutsch argued that countries should share values, a distinctive way of life and the expectation of economies gains. Those conditions are present in the Western Balkans.

An example of improving economic relations is the joining of formerly struggling national airlines into a transnational group. Deeper economic integration may be hampered, however, by the inclusion of some West Balkan states — Croatia and Slovenia — into the European Union which promises greater benefits than a regional trade bloc.

Security cooperation is still limited. The police forces of Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia have worked together in counternarcotics operations but there is no permanent framework for future such cooperation.

The region’s troubled history will likely frustrate the creation of an independent regional security community. Enhanced economic and security relations within the European Union — Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are candidates for membership — look more promising.

Mounting Unrest Could Force Slovenia to Seek Aid

Former Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša during a press conference in Brussels, March 14, 2008
Former Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša during a press conference in Brussels, March 14, 2008 (European Council)

After Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and most recently Cyprus, the latest victim in the European sovereign debt crisis could be Slovenia, embroiled in economic and social upheaval. The Central European country of barely two million has been going through a political crisis.

Independent since 1991, Slovenia boasts a healthy economy, excellent health care and a solid welfare system. But its politics leave much to be desired. Falling governments, premature elections, a collapse of the banking system, bankruptcies and corruption have taken a heavy toll. The incumbent administration is already the eleventh in the state’s 22 year independent history.

When the world financial crisis hit, Slovenia, like many other European countries, postponed fiscal adjustment and posted deficits equivalent to 6 percent of gross domestic product. Prime Minister Janez Janša’s right-wing government implemented spending reductions and reforms starting early last year to bring down the shortfall but met strong opposition from seniors, students and welfare recipients who were mainly affected by the cuts.

Public outrage was confounded by revelations of corruption by an investigative body that said Janša had failed to account for at least €200,000 in income while Zoran Janković, the left-wing opposition leader, had amassed some €2.4 million in funds that he could not legally account for. Both leaders were also implicated in a variety of graft scandals.

A new government took office in March. But Slovenians’ hopes for improvements were quickly dashed when the infrastructure minister resigned after being accused of owning an illegally built home on the coast.

Meanwhile, the country’s finances are in ever direr straits. Slovenia may not be able to make ends meet without international financial support which would make it the fifth European nation to require a bailout; the sixth when counting Spain’s bank bailout.