Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

There will be no stability in the Balkans without Serbia

Adelina Marini, December 4, 2011

An interview with Konstanty Gebert, Head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, who was in Bulgaria for a few days. We met at the Polish embassy to talk about the Western Balkans, because Mr Gebert was a correspondent to the region for many years and is still very interested in the developments there. The reason why the Western Balkans was the topic was that at the European Council on December 9th, it is expected the EU to give or deny green light for starting accession talks with Serbia and Montenegro. There are growing fears that Serbia might get a "no", judging from the speech of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday. In the meantime, there was another interesting development that we discussed with Konstanty Gebert - Bosnia has decided to file an application for EU membership. And while we were discussing the woes of the EU, of Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia, we several times spoke about Russia and Turkey too.

euinside: We're here with Konstanty Gebert, Head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a former journalist ...

Konstanty Gebert: Well, a current journalist still, please, I still have a column.

euinside: Yes, you do, well a journalist is always a journalist actually ... who was a correspondent to the Western Balkans for quite a lot of time. So, he obviously knows our region very well. And there is a very important summit coming up for the Western Balkans. A lot of countries wait for some very important decisions to be taken at the European Council on December 9 and this is what we are going to talk with Mr Gebert right now about. So, you've been to the Western Balkans in many countries in the region for a long time, during the war too, how do you find the region right now?

Konstanty Gebert: Well, it's almost to have you wonder that there is still "a region", the countries are moving at different speeds and different directions. I've returned from Pristina 2 weeks ago. Pristina was unexpectedly, strikingly optimistic in terms of activity and dynamism and, if you travel from Pristina to Sarajevo, you can see just how badly things can go - Sarajevo is still a depressed city. Sarajevo is still a city that has lost the war. So, the Western Balkans are travelling in different directions and obviously from the perspectives from over here the European summit will be about the Western Balkans, except that in Brussels nobody knows that. The European summit will be about the future of the euro, the Western Balkans are an afterthought, they are an item on the agenda. And this is characteristic I think of the very disparate visions of the Western Balkans, depending on where from you look at them.

euinside: Do you think that from this perspective, because since you mentioned the crisis and this is an issue we cannot avoid talking about, this could in some way overshadow and change the perspective the EU leaders have on the Balkans?

Konstanty Gebert: Well, it already has. The Western Balkans, as I said, are an afterthought. And in a way, if they matter at all right now, they matter within the context of the crisis. That is one argument for continuing involvement with the Western Balkans is the reflection that if people still want to join, maybe we're not in as bigger mess as we think we are, right? But basically the discussion will be about the crisis and it frankly should, and also we have to realise that enlargement fever has gone quite some time ago.

euinside: Maybe it went away with Bulgaria's and Romania's accession?

Konstanty Gebert: Yes, there is a consensus that this happened too quickly and we don't want to repeat a mistake, if a mistake there was, so what you have is a breakdown of the previous European consensus, which essentially said that enlargement was good for everybody. And you've got enlargement sceptical countries, like Finland, Netherlands but also Germany probably. Pro-enlargement countries, like Poland and Britain, which are pro-enlargement because of their own national interest agenda, and the enlargement in different majority that really cannot be bothered with that local Western Balkans issues when their entire house is in flames.

euinside: And from the Western Balkans' perspective, because during the war and the years after that they were in a way under the spotlight of European and international community attention, do you think that it's possible that they now feel abandoned?

Konstanty Gebert: Certainly they do. And it's a legitimate feeling but feelings don't change much in politics. That is safe if Serbia were to say "well, look we were kind" and they did, so where's our reward, and after all Serbia is obviously a part of the European mainstream, whatever it is Serbia is part of it, right? And the answer is tough luck, really.

euinside: Bad moment, bad timing ...

Konstanty Gebert: Bad moment, bad timing. Also the Kosovo issue, which is still a hot issue. It is a problem and a legitimate problem but it doesn't bother Kosovo alone.

euinside: Yes, but if you remember the EU was cautious and even denied that Serbia has to recognise Kosovo's independence but now they're quite directly saying that this is a precondition.

Konstanty Gebert: Well, maybe it's said officially it's a precondition and I don't really think it's about recognising Kosovo but preventing Kosovo from being an issue. After all not all the EU members have recognised Kosovo. Recognising Kosovo is not a precondition but disarming Kosovo, stopping Kosovo from being an issue is. And there is an analogy one of the reasons why Transylvania didn't blow up was that both Hungary and Romania were extremely aware that if there is any problem whatsoever with Transylvania the EU, at the time just the EC, isn't even going to think who's responsible what the problem is. Brussels would just say - go away and come back once this is no longer an issue. This is what the EU now wants from Serbia in terms of Kosovo.

euinside: The same approach. Because they said quite directly with their October progress report that Serbia is OK to start negotiations but it needs to solve its issues with Kosovo. So, you think that this doesn't necessarily mean recognising Kosovo's independence?

Konstanty Gebert: No. There is no legal basis for the EU to demand that a candidate country diplomatically recognise some other country. However, the EU says "we've got enough problems the way it is. If brining Serbia in means bringing in an unresolved Kosovo problem, then we don't want it". However, this doesn't mean that Belgrade needs to recognise Pristina but what it does mean is that Belgrade cannot be seen as part of the problem regarding Kosovo. Right now it still is, even if Tadic finally made that declaration calling on the Serbs to abandon the roadblocks. This came in very late and, well, the Serb state is still involved.

euinside: When saying that this came very late, could we consider this as last ditch effort to gain approval at the Council and can we say that actually they're doing this because of that and then, once they get the green light again return to this practise?

Konstanty Gebert: They're obviously doing it because of that, but they're also doing it because part of the Serb political elites and elite part of Serbia's population recognise that Kosovo is lost. Serbia will not be the first country in Europe to have suffered territorial losses. Speaking of the Hungarians or even the Poles for that matter, right?

euinside: Bulgarians too.

Konstanty Gebert: Bulgarians too, absolutely. The question really is where does Serbia want to be. If Serbia wants to be part of Europe, then regardless of the rights and wrongs it cannot enter Europe with that territorial issue still open. Full stop. This simply doesn't add up, right? If Serbia does not want to be part of the EU, that's perfectly understandable - the EU isn't exactly looking like the sexiest joint in town right now but if not in the EU where? There doesn't seem to be an alternative geopolitical space in Europe ...

euinside: The Eurasian Union? No, just joking.

Konstanty Gebert: It is a funny joke out east, you know but does anybody want to join the Eurasian Union out of their own?

euinside: I don't thinks so.

Konstanty Gebert: ... with the possible exception of the population of Mitrovica, where 30,000 people have already made applications for Russian citizenship, as you know. The idea is that if we have enough Russian citizens the Russian army will protect us.

euinside: Well, it was a joke actually but if you remember it was not that long ago when Serbia used to say 'well, we have good relations with Russia, why do we need the EU?'

Konstanty Gebert: Well, this is I think one of the curses of Serbian history because Serbia occasionally likes to think it has good relations with Russia but I'm not terribly sure if Russia is that concerned of having good relations with Serbia. It has been largely a one-way street. And of course it's fun to say - how many are you - well, together with the Russians we are 200 million, right. It doesn't work that way. Look at the Russian citizenship issue. Russia has encouraged, in fact, the Serbs of Kosovo to apply, while they often said they were examining those applications very closely which is nonsense. Under the Russian law those applications cannot be considered. By Russian law you can have Russian citizenship if you have been resident on Russian territory for 5 years, or if you're entitled to Soviet citizenship. None of these conditions apply in Mitrovica. Those applications simply cannot be considered and this should be the honest response that Moscow should give to the extremely unfortunate people living in Mitrovica, but they are toying with their hopes, which I find extremely indecent thing to do. But this is a good metaphor for the way that Russia has relations with Serbia, while Serbia might genuinely think they are a friend and a partner, but certainly this is a one way street. So, I don't really see much whittle room for Serbia. We'll see what the spring elections will bring and this will be the ultimate test, regardless of what happens in Brussels.

euinside: This obviously is a very difficult test, given our own, in Bulgaria, relations with Russia - 20 years on we are still, as a society, quite divided to russiaphiles and russiaphobes, which actually is not an actual debate, because as far as we see the political and geopolitical evolution in the EU a lot of former socialist countries actually start looking at Russia quite pragmatically. But to leave Russia aside, do you think there is a risk, while focusing on the Serbia-Kosovo issue that the attention might be distracted from other issues Serbia has, with, you know, the judicial system, other reforms? Do you think there is a risk of that?

Konstanty Gebert: I don't think there is a risk of Brussels overlooking all the other issues.

euinside: That's an important point.

Konstanty Gebert: This is the salient issue in public opinion and indeed in the political sphere right now because, as long as Kosovo remains a hot potato, this is going to be a no-go. However, assuming that some kind of pragmatic solution can be found, and with some good will it can be found, but the Kosovars are not making totally unrealistic demands either, then everything else still remains on the table - judiciary, internal affairs, economy - and Serbia is not in better shape or even as good shape as Romania and Bulgaria were.

euinside: Well, this is worth arguing, because if you travel by car through Serbia you will see the pace with which they build highways, for example, unlike Bulgaria which never had war and had 22 years of quietness to do a lot things, while Serbia had war but still they're trying to build that infrastructure bridge to the EU.

Konstanty Gebert: Infrastructure is looking better. I believe that systematic corruption in Serbia is actually worse than in Bulgaria. That's an open discussion.

euinside: It is.

Konstanty Gebert: And none of the two would be a great compliment. But they actually think that unfortunately for everybody on this point Serbia is in a worse situation than Bulgaria and these issues that will go away even if a compromise over Kosovo is found. But this is a different debate because until, or unless, the Kosovo hurdle is cleared then discussing corruption or even highways is simply not relative. But once the Kosovo hurdle is cleared, then, yes, all those petty details will be on the table and the Montenegro precedent - where the idea is now to revise all those negotiations and have the most difficult dossiers at first - well, if this is implemented and I think it will be and should be implemented it will also be implemented in respect to Serbia. So, all those issues are still on.

euinside: OK, to conclude with Serbia, what do you think will be the implications for Serbia itself if the European Council would decide "OK, you're not ready yet"?

Konstanty Gebert: My fear is that this would mean a massive nationalist victory in the spring elections and something that I had called at the time Weimar Serbia. Let's face it - there will be no stability, no peace and no genuine cooperation on the Balkans without the Serbs. Full stop. You cannot pretend they're not there, you cannot ignore also the legitimate grievances they have, it's an issue. But this needs Serbia that is willing to engage in genuine deadlock and also make compromises and also acknowledge its own evils.

euinside: So, it could be a kind of carrot if ...

Konstanty Gebert: ... If ...

euinside: ... because we're talking about negotiations not full membership, right?

Konstanty Gebert: Right, but negotiations themselves have preconditions and if Serbia turns inwards. If it reacts with a kind of classical Serb reactions "they don't understand us and, in fact, they don't deserve us". "They should be glad we want to be part of the club". That will be bad for Serbia, it will be bad for the Balkans and I believe it will be bad for Europe. Serbia is part of Europe, the European project is not only economic and not even only political. It is also a cultural sphere that Serbia is a full member of. So, a soaking Serbia, inwards looking Serbia and a Serbia that is excluded, and therefore left to rot, could become eventually again a destabilising factor on the Balkans.

euinside: That's quite dangerous.

Konstanty Gebert: That's very dangerous both for the Serbs and for the Balkans and for Europe at large.

euinside: This is quite logical that we go for the next country, I think it is very important that we discuss, and that's Bosnia and Herzegovina because, although the European Commission report from October said actually no progress at all in any field almost, now Bosnia said it wanted to file an application for EU membership. How do you see these two things combined?

Konstanty Gebert: I don't and I think that in Bosnia a great deal of responsibility is of our side, that is of the side of the EU. Dayton was a quick fix. Dayton was about stopping a war and nobody really thought in the long term what saddling Bosnia, with such an improbable constitution, will entail. What Dayton did was in fact to perpetuate the status quo. That is cove up Bosnia into ethnic statelets, most of them run by criminal mobs. And to make sure that the situation will remain permanent. I think it is extremely indicative that, while there was no problem at all in integrating the Bosnian army, which today is integrated, professional and actually has a contingent in Iraq. This army, that's made up of two armies that fought a very bitter civil war. Integrating the police forces is a non-go because the police forces in each of the entities and are the major stabilising factor for whoever is locally in power, and the local power elites hate each other, as they may for political reasons, cooperate very closely on the basis of groups of interest, right. You won't touch my mob and I won't touch your mob.

euinside: Do you think that the EU is actually realising that mistake?

Konstanty Gebert: Oh yes, we are very conscious of it, nobody has a bright idea ...

euinside: But there is no signal for a change of approach.

Konstanty Gebert: But nobody has a bright idea how to change approach. The hope was that such an impulse would come from within Bosnia and would be stronger, so that the EU could support it. But this didn't happen and not because there were not impulse, there were but the EU was too distracted and not politically courageous enough to take the risks that it takes and support a movement from within, which was aimed at changing the status quo. By now the status quo is quite old, it's very entrenched and many Bosnians have decided that they have to cooperate with it, even if it's absurd, because obviously nothing better will be around. So we have a permanently dysfunctional state, which is stabilised mainly by the fact that the international community, which essentially means the EU, accepts its dysfunctionality, this is done at the expense of its citizens and at the expense of chances for long-term stability. I think this is a pretty shameful situation.

euinside: So we are now in a crossroads because with Bosnia filing an application the EU actually has two options - whether to come up with a new proposal, a new approach or to accept Bosnia's application and start negotiations, which will actually stamp Bosnia forever in this.

Konstanty Gebert: There is always an optimistic perspective and the optimistic perspective, which wasn't totally ludicrous, was that once Bosnia eventually was in all the way it is would become an EU member. Then all this would become irrelevant within a broader European context. This might have been the case with an activist and rich and stable EU. This certainly is not the case today. The EU would simply not have the resources or indeed the political will or interest to nurse Bosnia back to political health if and whether it joins the EU. So, in a way it almost doesn't matter whether Bosnia's application will be accepted or rejected because Bosnia, as it is, cannot join the EU. Full stop.

euinside: Then why do you think is this decision of Mr Izetbegovich to file this application?

Konstanty Gebert: I think he is sending us the bill. This is entirely legitimate. He says "you, guys, have been the co-creators of this mess or not. We are the Bosnia that have fought up. So, that's the Bosnia you get".

euinside: It's your problem now, you solve it.

Konstanty Gebert: It's also your problem. It will be extremely foolish of Bosnian leaders to say "it's your problem" because ultimately a country is never anybody's problem before being a problem for its own citizens, right? Whoever is responsible for the mess the citizens are those who ultimately have to solve it. But the EU cannot pretend it's not co-responsible and that said Izetbegovich said - he said 'OK guys, own up'.

euinside: So, it's difficult to predict what the EU's move would be?

Konstanty Gebert: It's difficult to predict. I'd rather think it will be a rejection for procedural matters and also because the EU today is a much more brutal place than it was, say, five years ago. 5 years ago we were all politically correct and fluffy and nice.

euinside: And that obviously is set aside.

Konstanty Gebert: Well look, when it comes to the money nicety is set aside, so right now it's cutting to the bone and I don't think the EU is going for political correctness anymore.

euinside: And no patience at all with the current crisis?

Konstanty Gebert: No, for obvious reasons.

euinside: And Montenegro - it's a very strange case in all this jigsaw puzzle?

Konstanty Gebert: In a way Montenegro is too small to matter one way or the other. Given the fact that it actually has made a substantial progress, and given the fact that it's probably the only country where there is no unavoidability tray. There are great fears in Brussels when opening yet another chapter and lightning another green light, is that there will be a dynamism that would become unstoppable. But Montenegro can be stopped at any stage precisely because it's small. Therefore, the decision abut Montenegro will be not really so much about Montenegro itself but about keeping the European project going. And I think it will cheer everybody up in Brussels that somebody still wants to join. So, why not give Montenegro the go ahead. It's not dangerous and if Brussels changes it mind then it changes its mind - there will be no big price to pay.

euinside: Do you share the vision that with Croatia joining, because you know the background of all these grim events will be a celebration on the 9th of December with the ceremony on the signing of Croatia's treaty, but do you share that vision that Croatia would be a kind of stimulus for all the countries in the region?

Konstanty Gebert: In a normal world, yes. In a way, if it was still a very open game, that is you play by the rules, you meet the conditions, you're automatically in - then, yes, Croatia should add this kind of impulse effect on everybody else. But it's no longer the case. The rules are shifting, the EU is in a process of profound transformation. If it emerges victorious from this present situation, this will mean that the sovereignty shift to Brussels for any new members will be much bigger than originally imagined. If we do not solve our crisis, I think we'll become much less attractive. Incidentally, if we don't solve our crisis, if the EU breaks up into what is called a two-speed Europe, I think the terms are not normal because there wouldn't be a two-speed Europe there will be a multi-speed Europe, which will mean that there will be a core Europe around the euro, much more integrated economically, which means politically, than it is today and then there will be the periphery, which ...

euinside: ... which is obviously not that attractive for the countries in the Western Balkans.

Konstanty Gebert: Yes, and now because the periphery will not be moving at a uniform speed, which will mean that in fact we will have a reduced core Europe - the euro and - and then a kind of grey zone in which being formally a EU member or not will not make such a huge difference as it makes today, because what will really matter if you're part of the euro or not. And this might reduce the attractiveness of joining the EU because the real issue will be joining the eurozone. Then Montenegro and Kosovo will say 'we're there already'. Well, it's not serious - they have simply adopted the euro as a national currency but that doesn't mean they have influence over the eurozone but this will change the political geography of Europe so profoundly that the Croatian impulse will just get lost amongst the rising cacophony.

euinside: Because it seems like a notion to the actually good competition between different countries, like it was with Bulgaria and Romania - look, how the Romanians are going and we have to catch up and they - vice versa. But the countries in the region are so much different, so it's very difficult to make such a competitions fruitful.

Konstanty Gebert: Right. Especially as the price is no longer that clear.

euinside: Yes, precisely because no longer ... and they have this kind of sense 'what kind of a Union are we joining?'. And for the Croatians it's a little bit 'maybe we've managed to catch the last train' but what about the others?

Konstanty Gebert: It's not so much a question of catching trains but do we really want to go where the trains are going.

euinside: Indeed, because for us it was the last train but for them it is - is this the right train.

Konstanty Gebert: What it might simply mean is that there will be a cooling off period for everybody, a wait-and-see period. There is a great deal of integrating structures operating in the Western Balkans already. If you think of the classical intermediary vision of Europe of totally southern nation states those totally southern nation states don't exist anywhere in the continent even if you're not part of Europe, of the political Europe, of the EU, you're still connected with it - with the different treaties you've ratified, different procedures you've adopted. So, the kind of completely southern world is simply no longer there. So what it might mean is that this intermediary phase might last a couple of years longer until the EU sorts out its own mess one way or the other. The urgency is no longer really there in the sense that the Western Balkans are in fact already today an EU enclave - they are surrounded by the EU. It might turn out a kind of piecemeal arrangement that will be made will provide satisfactory enough for both sides to survive that period of transition and once the new EU architecture is clear, it will be much clearer for everybody - do we want to join and what is the price of joining.

euinside: I really, not that I wanted that our conversation to be optimistic, but with these developments in the EU we did not sound optimistic at all.

Konstanty Gebert: No, but usually the idea was - well you, guys, in the West, in the EU, you've got it made and you're simply denying us our slice of the pie. This is no longer the conversation. The pie is disappearing as we speak, the EU is not that golden standard of success that it was.

euinside: What is actually worrying me is that so far the European integration and the so called European perspective was the main driver of reforms. Now these countries need another driver of reforms and it is still not on the horizon.

Konstanty Gebert: I was always kind of sceptical of selling public opinions the idea that we don't really want to do this but big bad Brussels is forcing us. The idea is so, say, freedom of expression is not really what we wanted to have but we have to have it to show it to Brussels or free trade, or gender equality, or lack of corruption. I mean Brussels doesn't impose anything that could honestly be objected to from an internal perspective. I think Turkey is interesting because, while Turkey has officially shifted course from Brussels and now it says 'we're not really sure if we're interested' but they continue with the internal reform progress ...

euinside: ... for their own sake.

Konstanty Gebert: Those things are good. It also happens that Brussels wants them.

euinside: Yes, but Turkey has the economic driver, it has the economic power now, maybe that's one of the reasons why.

Konstanty Gebert: But it's also one of the consequences. Turkey wasn't that brilliant shape a dozen years ago. One of the reasons why Turkey has become a local economic power house is that it has not only endorsed but actually implemented so much of the economic and structural reforms that Brussels demanded. So, if Turkey were to become a role model, those things actually work. It's not just some fancy window dressing that is an unreasonable demand from Brussels, it makes sense, even if we don't join the Union still makes sense. And Turkey apparently is more than happy to play the role of a mentor, so maybe Turkey in the interim could assume this role.

euinside: Well Turkey is still a topic taboo for this region actually, where we are still not quite evolved to accept the realities.

Konstanty Gebert: But we have to. Russia is a taboo, was a taboo topic for Poland, say. Because the psychological relationship was similar. Actually I would prefer to have Turkey as a taboo topic than Russia. Turkey is behaving in a slightly more rational way than Russia is but we also have to realise that, OK, basically everybody has had a hard childhood, right? Our sub story is very real and very true and nobody's interested. So, we cannot change our past. What we can do is own up to our present and hope to influence the future. And we were able to have that reasonably fresh start with Russia. No illusions there, I mean - nobody fell in love with anybody but we can have pragmatic dealings with Russia. Russia realised that it cannot really have good relations with the EU, while being destructive on Poland. Poland has realised that the EU is not going to add up the Polish perspective on Russia, so both sides had to realise, for pragmatic reasons, that we need to have our policies. OK, there was the symbolic movement with the Smolensk crash, which helped because there was a genuine moral shock for both sides, but we are capable of engaging in pragmatic policy cooperation with Russia.

euinside: The approach is - small steps but constant walking.

Konstanty Gebert: Absolutely. And don't expect miracles and don't pretend it's a love story. It's not. If this kind of relationship would be possible with Turkey and would demand a great deal on both sides, of course, I think it would be extremely beneficial for both sides. Turkey is still looking for the regional context it can become a permanent guiding element.

euinside: I think it already found it, or at least it seems so, with the developments in the Middle East.

Konstanty Gebert: I think this is going to be very short lived. I don't really see Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt endorsing Turkey's vision of a secular state and it's not only the Balkans that have a difficult historical relationship with Turkey, so does the Arab world.

euinside: So, there are a lot of question marks where is Turkey headed to.

Konstanty Gebert: All this essentially is joggling concepts, no decisions have been made anywhere but I do think that Turkey's interests will be best served by having a leadership role in the Balkans, whether a relationship that can be stable. The Arab world will be sorting itself out for another 10 to 20 years and Turkey's stateous secularism is not a model that will be enforceable in the Arab world.

euinside: And it's changing obviously.

Konstanty Gebert: It is changing but fear is, of course, that in the long run it will be the Arab world that will change Turkey and not the other way round. And this really is that the fundamental issue, you see, when Sarkozy asked his rhetorical question 'do we want the EU to have a common border with Iran, Iraq and Syria'. OK, the answer is, of course we don't. If we had a choice we would say 'we don't want these common borders'. We don't have this choice. The only choice we have is whether these common borders will be Turkey's Eastern borders or Western borders.

euinside: And how would they would be protected.

Konstanty Gebert: Exactly. Will Turkey be part of the European project or will Turkey be a part of the European problem?

euinside: But Turkey looks like it is riping for the idea of a Norway scenario for itself. Do you think that's a kind of compromise? Inbetween these extreme visions about Turkey in Turkey and in the EU.

Konstanty Gebert: To replicate the Norway scenario it helps if you're Norway. Norway does not have a historical past in Europe.

euinside: And no cultural differences, we have to admit that.

Konstanty Gebert: Well, the Norwegians are weird but that's another story - everybody's weird. I'm sure that if, say, Sweden would have liked to play the Norwegian scenario somebody would remind of the Swedish invasions in the 17th century. Europe is a place with long historical past. Part of the Norway scenario is that Norway is only an extremely rich country, which is still too sovereign to do what it wants with its money. If you wish a Qatar.

euinside: And they have their oil, which is very important these days.

Konstanty Gebert: This is where the money comes from. So, Norway's influence or Norway the intermediary is not a political threat to anybody. Turkey simply doesn't have this past. It cannot be, even if it wants, to be an impartial negotiator it will never be seen that way, this is an illusion, this is a fantasy. Having said that Turkey's impact does work both ways. I remember speaking to a Turkish colonel in Bosnia, in Zenica when the Turkish army entered as part of the UNPROFOR, he told me that they had been trained for months in advance about how to behave, I mean this is the Turkish army returning to Europe for the first time since World War I, and that extensive human rights training whatever, and then we come in, he said, and we realise we have to teach the natives about separation of church and state and these kind of things, so it must have come as a shock. But that was the problem. So, Turkey does have a role to play and it also can be a very positive role but Turkey cannot be under the illusion that people will accept the face value. It comes with the past. And this is why Norway scenarios seem to fanciful to have.

euinside: I've alway been impressed how talking about this very small region of the Western Balkans it's inevitable to start talking about Russia, Turkey, even Norway. Well, thank you so much, it's been very interesting for me.

Konstanty Gebert: Thank you.