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Making Integration Work: Notes from Poznan

The Western Balkans Summit, the highest level convention of the Berlin process this year was organized in Poznan.


For some participants whose flight connection was unfortunate the road to Poznan passes through berlin and then driving to Poznan for a good 3 hours. During the drive we observe as endless heavy load trucks bring in cheaper Polish goods into Germany and eventually further out to the rest of Western Europe. Our Polish driver from the Embassy is beaming proud at this observation. The roads look and feel better in Poland, they have been made new with EU funds. The border is seamless line over a river bridge.

In Poznan we see further proof that integration has worked. The mood is uplifting. Old factories have been turned into glam shopping malls.  Young people care to give us instructions in English with a kind politeness.

 Coming from the region, we daydream about this happening to us in the Balkans. Invisible borders, increased trade, renewed infrastructure. Some of these premises actually make up the same Berlin process that we have come here to partake.

The mood is more somber in the Civil Society Forum of the Summit one day prior to the convention of the political leaders. There are a few achievements to be celebrated such as the Roaming Agreement which will allow for more affordable communication between countries in the region. However the other larger and more strategic initiatives of connectivity are lagging behind.

And then there is the whole painful enlargement agenda which we seem to be fighting hard to even keep on the table. Outgoing Commissioner Hahn makes a promise to remain engaged with the region. However it is unclear what the perspective really will be under the new EU institutions. French President Macron salutes Poznan with a “read my lips no more enlargement” declaration. Chancellor Merkel begs to disagree.

The delegations from North Macedonia are the most restless. Their expectations are the largest when it comes to future steps and milestones. They will also co-host the next Summit together with their eastern neighbor Bulgaria, a member state since 2007. Integration has worked also for Bulgaria, even though less than for our hosts, the Polish.

Many Summits have gone by: Vienna, Paris, Trieste even ironically London.  All of us seem locked into a dilemma of how to make integration work. How to make it functional, beneficial for all citizens even before joining the Union. How to establish and enjoy the common market, how to attract investments together, how to forge links and exchanges which are organic and not project based. Politics, history, misunderstandings, politics again are always in the way. Stubborn squabbles and needless impediments which fall right into the hands of European actors who are not keen to push forward anyways. 

At the conclusion of the Forum we sit in the central square enjoying the view and some drinks. Our Polish Ambassador happens to pass by wishing us to enjoy Poznan. We will. We will enjoy our imaginary future. The past is always waiting for us tomorrow at home. 

At daybreak of the fifteenth day of my search

John Lusco

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