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Serbia Is Starting To Lose Patience with EU

Published on , , Twitter: @AdelinaMarini

Serbia and EU are in a stalemate and unless an exit is found this could prove another huge geopolitical challenge for the EU. Because of the non-starting of accession negotiations with EU Belgrade is now visibly losing patience. This has become crystal clear during the meeting on 21 April between European Council President Donald Tusk and Serbia Prime Minister Alexander Vucic. The two made brief statements for the press without any questions from journalists. The difference between them, however, was easy to notice. The former premier of Poland, Tusk, seemed, as usually, welcoming and smiling no matter that he said two very serious things. One was that Serbia's future in the EU is as important for the Balkan state as it is for EU. In the same time, though, it is crucial the Serbian foreign policy to be guided by its main strategic goal, which is EU membership. This is an unequivocal warning that Serbia's EU membership is now formally being bound to imposing sanctions against Russia.

Prime Minister Vucic was a complete contrast to the European president. He seemed either very tired or very bored. He measured his words very carefully without reading from a prepared statement as is his usual practise. Again, unlike Donald Tusk who read out a carefully worded statement. Vucic tried to speak the language of Europe pointing out that Serbia is working intensively and is doing well in tackling its fiscal deficit, the public debt and, generally, the sustainability of its economy. All of these issues that dominate the European public domain and are now important for Serbia as well, as the European Semester applies to the candidate countries, too. He agreed with Donald Tusk's conclusion that Serbia has a lot more to do for the rule of law.

However, on this issue a particular hue could be observed. The former secretary general of the Serbian Radical Party, founded by Vojislav Seselj, said that he completely agrees with the assessment regarding the rule of law, "the legal state or whatever you call it, the rules and procedures". For legal state he used the German term rechststaat. The fact that it was irrelevant to him how exactly will this be called reveals some disregard for one of the foundations which the EU has been built upon. Mr Vucic completely ignored the issue about Serbia's foreign policy orientation but said instead that he expected the first negotiation chapters to be opened in June because, in his words, Serbia deserves this because of the excellent screening process and because of the continuation of the dialogue with Pristina.

"Whether this will happen in June is not up to us but I have to say that we, from Serbia, do things that we actually deserve it", Mr Vucic added. Yesterday, in Subotica, he said that he expected to become clear yet in May whether the Council would agree the real negotiations to begin. Serbia expected the opening of the first chapters, especially 23 and 24, in December last year but not only this did not happen but EU did not even commit to a specific date. Moreover, the General Affairs Council pointed out clearly that Serbia is expected to align its foreign policy with the EU which is a demand under cover Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia. Something Belgrade is tenaciously refusing. Alexander Vucic's government is completely convinced that it is possible to keep both its good relations with Russia and in the same time to get closer to EU.

Given the seriously deteriorated relations between EU and Russia, this is not an option Brussels can accept. The problem is, however, that this stalemate hides some serious risks. The Serbian government so far demonstrated complete dedication to the European process but in the same time the attitudes of many in Serbia are that a membership should not come at any price, especially if that includes a deterioration of relations with "brotherly Russia".

Serbia formally started negotiations on 21 January last year but without the opening of specific chapters. As an informal beginning of the real negotiations process is deemed the opening of chapters 23 and 24. They cover the political criteria that are toughest to fulfil in the region like the rule of law, media independence, human rights, rights of minorities, etc. After the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU unprepared and with a special mechanism, the European Commission has changed the approach. The new approach is being applied for the first time with Montenegro which started the accession negotiations precisely from chapter 23 and 24. The aim of this new approach is the most difficult chapters to be opened in the very beginning of the negotiations and to be closed last when it is clear that not only the necessary legislation is in place but that the mechanism of the legal state is activated. This means that there are guarantees that the rule of law is introduced.

This is precisely why Serbia insists so much on the opening of chapters 23 and 24. Last year, however, after the ostentatious military parade in honour of Russia President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Vucic's government was aware that it is very unlikely to get what it wants which is why it lowered its expectations and hoped "at least" the chapter on trade to be opened.

In the current geopolitical moment, the EU's demand Serbia to align its foreign policy with EU's is completely justified. In the same time, however, if it is true that if Serbia imposed sanctions on Russia this could lead to stoppage of gas deliveries, of trade and other problems, as Serbia's chief negotiator with EU Tanja Miscevic said at a conference in Zagreb recently, the EU should address these fears. The current situation is a tipping geopolitical point for the EU which requires a lot of precision, wisdom and vision. Without Serbia the Balkans will remain a problematic region and Europe has sufficient historical experience to know that this is not good for the stability of the continent.

23 April 2015 15:21
Serbia should be allowed into the EU especially after Romania and Bulgaria were slotted into it. They are amongst only a handful of European nations who have implemented fiscal responsibility to effectively curb economic disaster. You can only get a country to jump through so many hoops before they simply knock the hoops down. In terms of not placing sanctions on Russia, good for them! The rest of Europe should wake up and realize that U.S. foreign policy should not be one in the same as EU policy. All of Europe is suffering from these sanctions while the US who imposed them, is achieving stability.
23 April 2015 17:31
Serbia should not be allowed in the EU until they have paid reparations in Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia for all the destruction, damages and atrocities that were committed under Milosevic in the quest for a Greater Serbia and the entire country has undergone an education of all the crimes committed in their name, similar to what Germans received after WW2.
24 April 2015 00:34
Well then Croatians and Germans should not be allowed into EU considering 1.1- 1.8 million Serbian civilians were slaughtered during WW2. Hitler did say I have three enemies Serbs, Jews and Communists the in 1939. Look up Jasenovac and among other Concentration camps across Europe. In regards to your comment what had happened during 90's here is a brief explanation. Lastly those people were either citizens, of Croatia and Bosnia they have nothing to do with Serbia they've been living in Bosnia and Croatia for over 1500 years so they ought to be tried by Bosnian's and Croatian gov. Serbia as a country should not be held accountable considering they are not Serbian citizens.

24 April 2015 14:42
RedC, you need to start reading historical truths as opposed to Serbian propaganda. Here, start with this....

Historian Christopher Browning who attended the conference on the subject of Holocaust and Serbian involvement stated:

“ Serbia was the only country outside Poland and the Soviet Union where all Jewish victims were killed on the spot without deportation, and was the first country after Estonia to be declared "Judenfrei", a term used by the Nazis during the Holocaust to denote an area free of all Jews.

And as to your point appoint about the Serbs in present day Slovenia, BiH and Croatia being citizens of those countries and not Serbia proper during the last war, is absolute rubbish. They were citizens of Yugoslavia. and when Yugoslavia was breaking up, they chose not to be citizens of the newly liberated nations and thus asked for Serbia to intervene. Which Serbia did, with the objective of creating a 'Greater Serbia'.

Lastly, the war that caused the break up of Yugoslavia was NOT a 'civilian' war, so you can stop with that bit of propaganda as well. Serbia under the mask of 'Yugoslavia' (and with all it's military resources) then ATTACKED Slovenia, Croatia and finally BiH. Just as nobody believes that Russia is not fueling and supporting the 'Russian rebels' in the Ukraine today, so nobody believes that Serbia proper did not first plan, fuel, arm, and support the 'Serbian rebels' in all the nation's that it later decided to attacked in the 90s.
24 April 2015 22:16
Anna, Roberta,
Judging by your views of 'the truth' you must be either Croats or have links with Croatia or are simply brainwashed by CNN and Routers' propaganda from the 1990s.
How about the fact that from being 11-12% of the population of Croatia in the pre-1990s, the Croatian Serb minority was reduced to almost 0% bu the mid 1990s, with most of the Serbs either killed or expelled with no right of return or right to claim back their lands and properties that mostly sit empty today.
No one was convicted neither in Croatian nor in the international courts over the murder and mass expulsion of an entire minority. Does Germany has something to do with helping the break up of Yugoslavia as Croatia and for that matter Slovenia are it's 'client states' that allow strategic access to the Adriatic sea that Germany could not get through Yugoslavia?

Welcome to EU Croatia, the land of 'respect for human right and rule of law'.
7 May 2015 03:09
Roberta and Anna, I hope you are not blonde. You have very poor knowledge about history. I agree with Mike you must be Croats. Please read more then one article, more then one book, search little bit more and then maybe you can place some intellectual thinking.
20 May 2015 19:31
Roberta and Anna know that Serbs are like wild beasts that annihilate everything and everybody, right? Heck, they seem to be most successful in annihilating themselves... Disappeared from Croatia, disappeared from Sarajevo and other areas outside Republic of Srpska, from Kosovo (except a small area where they were lucky enough to be a majority). There were even Serbs in Albania once, just imagine!
How could those saintly Croats, Albanians and (newly proclaimed) Bosniaks have anything to do with that? Of course not, those pesky Serbs only disappear to make them look bad! Serbian propaganda, I say, statistics be damned! Jasenovac, Schmasenovac! Even if something not-so-pretty was ever done to Serbs, it is only because they provoked the poor guys! (Women and children are particularly horrible provocateurs, btw.)
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