Sofia Echo

South Eastern Europe

Serbia, EU member number 30?

Author: Clive Leviev-Sawyer Date: Fri, Dec 18 2009 21 Comments, 4140 Views
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If Croatia becomes the 29th European Union member state, Serbia wants to be the 30th, either alone or with others, Serbian deputy prime Bozidar Delic was quoted by media in Belgrade as saying on December 14.

Delic’s arithmetic was unclear, given that the EU had 27 member states; most likely he was assuming that the 28th member state would be Iceland.

Signs are that Croatia could lead the field among the Western Balkans candidates, given that Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has said that Zagreb could complete accession negotiations in the first half of 2010. However, still standing in the way of Croatia’s hopes is the question of co-operation with The Hague tribunal, with Maxime Verhagen, foreign minister of The Netherlands, saying that he cannot see his way clear to the judiciary chapter being cleared until Croatia satisfies the requirements of The Hague chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz.

For Serbia, there have been some positive signs of late, notably the decision by EU foreign ministers on December 7 to unblock the free trade agreement between the bloc and Serbia, a step long held up by the equivalent question of co-operation with The Hague tribunal, with The Netherlands and Belgium having been adamant in their opposition to any movement pending progress on the handing over of war criminals by Belgrade.

Delic put a positive spin on this issue in a speech in Belgrade on December 14, saying that the positive signals from the EU had spurred Serbia to increase its efforts to arrest and hand over war crimes suspects that were still at large.

While there had been several reports that Serbia would submit a formal application by Christmas (variously, by the end of 2009) to join the EU, a key factor that has emerged is Belgrade’s stated desire to be sure in advance about the reaction to such an application across the bloc.

This stance by Belgrade is a result of several clear statements by influential players in the EU, first, that Serbia should not be too hasty, and second, that it should be certain of how an application would be received.

Speaking in Brussels on December 9, Rehn was reluctant to discuss the timing of Serbia’s EU application. "Each step at the right time," he said, "yesterday we put into effect the trade part of the agreement with Serbia and subsequent steps will be discussed".

Carl Bildt, foreign minister of Sweden, current holder of the rotating presidency of the EU, said that Serbia obviously was well-prepared and could progress towards EU membership faster than other Western Balkans countries.

Belgrade daily Blic, interviewing British ambassador Stephen Wordsworth, heard a similar message, that Serbia should first be certain that all EU member states would support an application.

The UK, along with Germany and Italy, is said to be among EU states in favour of Serbia submitting an application before the end of the Swedish presidency of the EU at the end of 2009, but in public all three are advocating caution. Serbian news agency Tanjug, in a December 12 report, quoted German charge d’affaires in Belgrade Hans-Ulrich Sudbeck as taking the now-familiar line that Serbia first should be certain that an application would be received positively by all EU states.

Delic has counted off the positive signals so far, from the free trade agreement to the fact that, on December 19, Serbia – along with Macedonia and Montenegro – will enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen zone.

Recalling the recent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Delic said that "another wall fell with the liberalisation of visas for Serbia".

The Kosovo complication
However, from Serbia’s point of view, there is the profound complication of a lack of consensus internationally and specifically within the EU about its territorial integrity.

States from Britain to Bulgaria that publicly back Serbia joining the EU also are among the majority of EU members that have recognised Kosovo’s February 2008 unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.

This has meant that Belgrade has had to sit and listen to countries that support its EU membership give oral evidence in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague endorsing the Kosovo breakaway.

Bulgaria was a case in point, typical of this ambivalence in relations with Serbia. Belgrade let it be known that it was deeply irked by Sofia’s evidence in favour of Kosovo in the international court, while just a few days later, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov spoke warmly in favour of Serbia’s EU accession.

Similarly, the Schengen visa deal for Serbia does not extend to Kosovo.

Further, Belgrade’s public appeals to states that have not recognised Kosovo to hold on to this stance pending the outcome of the ICJ process may have persuasive but not legal force. It is doubtful, given that the ICJ ruling would have the status only of an opinion, that any decision on recognition would be interpreted as a violation of the sub judice rule.

The Kosovo complication goes to the heart of the problem facing Serbia. The rules for EU membership are fixed and universal, and every significant voice in the EU has denied that Belgrade would have to recognise Kosovo to get into the club; a perspective that, for the time being, is convenient enough for everyone given that Serbia could not have made it clearer that it cannot accept what it sees as an illegal violation of its territorial integrity.

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    • Anonymous
      Tibor Rating:
      #21 15, 01, Sat, Jan 02 2010

      Jaroslav - are you yet in a position to comment / provide an answer to the points which I made recently (origin being "1" as this site slightly unhelpfully tends to default to, given the slightest excuse) ???

    • Anonymous
      1 Rating:
      #20 13, 24, Fri, Jan 01 2010

      A good answer, Yaroslav / Jaroslav, but the opposition is not as "absurd" as you like to portray it:

      - Hungary's "territorial revision" restriction is specifically limited to the provisions of the 1919 Treaty of Trianon, which covers their grievances over Transylvania and Slovakia. It doesn't touch their ethnic issues with Slovenia in Prekmurje region (which the Slovenes are very assiduous in placating by providing Magyar-language schools, for example), or with the Serbs in Vojvodina (where the Serbs do NOT act as eirenically as the Slovenes.)

      - Slovenia : from my own [...]

      Read the full comment conversations with senior Slovene government officials in Ljubljana a few years ago, I can report that there was a strong "cultural" resistance to ever getting involved with Belgrade ever again ! Plus the visible problem on the Ljubljana streets of dispossesed Bosnians driving around in cars with no number-plates (these had been taken by the Serbs when they were expelled.) This provoked a great deal of anti-Serbian feeling amongst all Slovenes, not just government officials.

      To which I would now add the UK. Lord Ashdown (former EU High Representative in Bosnia) is an influential member of the UK House of Lords, and has now asked the UK Foreign Office to block Serbian EU Accession. Do not underestimate the power of Lord Ashdown.

      Happy New Year

    • Anonymous
      Yaroslav Rating:
      #19 20, 05, Wed, Dec 23 2009

      These fantasies of coutnries blocking membership are absurd.

      The only ones likely to do so are the Netherlands and possibly Bulgaria.

      Slovenia`s ex-yu issues are with Croatia over territory. The only disputes with Serbia are over Communist era property and have been solved between the two. The only dispute that could rise was if Serbia was to raise the issue of Slovenia`s discrimination of Serbian investors in Slovenia (most notably the Delta company) in violation of EU rules and interstate agrements. However the regime in power in Serbia is unlikely to do [...]

      Read the full comment this.

      Because of the election of revisionist politicians in the 90s, the EU treaty with Hungary specifically bars it from promoting territorial revisionism (i.e. it can`t use it against Serbia).The most Hungary could do is raise some minor concern about minority rights, that would be solved in a few months.

      Austria doesn`t care about Ferdinand. It carea bout money. The Austrians investors (largest investors in Serbia) benefit more from Serbia in the EU then outside it.

      The Luxembourg claim is absurd. Serbia hasn`t defaulted on any loan.

      After the things that have happened between Slovenia and Croatia, the EU has already indicated that in Croatia`s accesion treaty it will bar them from blocking the accession of any other Balkan state (the same would be required for Serbia and Bosnia and FYROM and Montenegro). Especially since Croatia has disputes over territory iwth Bosnia and Montenegro.

      By the time Serbia actually starts talks the Mladic issue will be over, the only way the Dutch would drop their veto.

      This means only Bulgaria has a high chance of vetoing. And this is unlikely.

    • Anonymous
      Koinos Nous Rating:
      #18 03, 08, Wed, Dec 23 2009

      Oh dear, I can foresee a quarrel in Brussels amongst member-states' representatives queuing up at the "VETO" desk in the EU Commission building (Berlaymont).

      Instead of just the lonely Greeks banging on about Macedonia, we will have - all jostling for a place to be first in the VETO queue (or "line" in American):

      - Netherlands (unfinished business about Srebrenice)

      - Slovenia (unfinished business generally from old Yugoslavia)

      - Hungary (Vojevodina issues)

      - Slovakia (always gets confused with Slovenia, and [...]

      Read the full comment often follows its lead)

      - Austria (old grievances, dating back to Archduke Franz Ferdinand)

      - Bulgaria (justified old and recent grievances)

      - Malta (the Maltese don't like anybody)

      - Luxembourg (the Serbs have defaulted on various bank loans)

      ....which is far more than the necessary "qualified minority" to block an "avis" in the Council(Eurospeak for a negative caucus),
      i.e. a "blocking minority".)

      Macedonia (fYRoM) looks like a piece of cake by comparison !!!

      Watch this space.....

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #17 02, 09, Wed, Dec 23 2009

      Sure Benzo,
      if it makes you feel better.
      As Serbia applies for membership, it looks very much as if she's come hat in hand to the very folks who beat the crap out of her 10 years a go - not too glorious if you ask me...
      Taking your school (or that of your
      parent's) lessons too literaly can give you illusions... The Serbian tragedy that took 100 years to play out is that very fact the she hever could understand how small, provintial she is. Even young Serbs like yourself, all [...]

      Read the full comment the way from LA continue with this, borderline, meglomaniac bigger than life heroic Serbia, who in reality succeeded in little more than ending up roughly the same size she started with in 1912.
      Benzo, Serbia is the hole in the EU map - nothing to brag about...

    • Anonymous
      Aries Rating:
      #16 20, 12, Tue, Dec 22 2009

      To whom it may concern.

      Serbia will be accepted in the EU
      on the same terms with Cyprus
      mutatis mutandis.

    • Anonymous
      benzo Rating:
      #15 19, 12, Tue, Dec 22 2009

      Valeri ..everything you've said is true ..ONLY if you want to be colonized and the "europeans" know a thing or two about that !!

      Serbia wants to be a part of the EU in terms of *geography *ethnicity and *culture.. lets face it we are very european. We refused to be subservient to eastern or western powers for several centuries now and I dont see that changing anytime soon.

      As for other options lets not kid ourselves 2/3 of world population, financial assets, technilogical innovations and energy comes from the big countries [...]

      Read the full comment of the East. Russia is only a small part of that.

      The world is very small today valeri globalization will continue to change the dynamics of todays realities at mind boggling speed.

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #14 18, 01, Tue, Dec 22 2009

      No Benzo,
      Serbia will be adopted into the EU like a child from a broken home - with many issues - this will be no " partnership" of any sort, as it implies equality. You will be told what to do at every step. This is what responsible people in the Serb government want, because they realize that Serbia isn't capable of getting her own house in order by herself - like BG, the Serbs are no Swiss.
      I think it's very important for Serbia to get more humble if this is to work - basically [...]

      Read the full comment you have to allow the EU to help you, by being realistic.
      The "countries in the East" are an illusion. Russia is a taker, not a giver.
      Besides, God bless them, the things they can give, trust me, you don't want...

    • Anonymous
      benzo Rating:
      #13 04, 09, Tue, Dec 22 2009

      @VALERI: Yes ..the things you mentioned will happen. Serbia will continue to develop at an impressive rate.


      -The EU can be a partner with Serbia during this period of renewal or not. Should they choose not to, our good friends in those large countries of the east will gladly be the partners we look forward to working with.

      -This growth and renewal will happen regardless of Serbian EU membership or not. So as I said earlier the EU needs serbia more then serbia needs the EU.

      Read the full comment />
      @KOSOVA.... You are right in the sense that "YES" there are several countries in the region and beyound that are threatened by the thought of Serbia on equal footing and would use ridiculous tactics to calm their fears. Lets not loose sight of the bigger GEOPOLITICAL picture which render each of your points completly meaningless.

    • Anonymous
      progress Rating:
      #12 03, 28, Tue, Dec 22 2009

      Yup, it's only fair...Keeping fingers crossed that it will go smoothly, people in Serbia have suffered enough from politicans' agendas...

    • Anonymous
      Kosovar Rating:
      #11 12, 43, Sun, Dec 20 2009

      My northern neighbor, Serbia, they never learn.
      Wake up an smell the coffee!

      Serbia will recognize Kosovo!

    • Anonymous neutral
      #10 11, 57, Sun, Dec 20 2009

      Albanian citizens of Serbia living in Kosovo should have no fears about their country Serbia being a new candidate for EU. This proves that only with Serbia Kosovo region will be able to make any progress towards EU. All of us in Belgrade welcome Kosovo Albanians, our citizens, to work together with its country Serbia to move towards EU. There's an obvious benefit so let's not waste our time, dear Kosovo Albanian friends.

    • Anonymous
      Koinos Nous Rating:
      #9 20, 22, Sat, Dec 19 2009

      Agree situation analysis entirely with "Kosova". Well summarised !

    • Anonymous
      Kosova Rating:
      #8 17, 33, Sat, Dec 19 2009

      Again hopes run high with our Serb neighbours about EU membership sooner rather than later. There are complications and they are not only about Kosova. I will list them up accordingly so as to give our hopefuls a reality check.

      * The Netherlands will block any attempts, without Mladic sent to Hauge and Serbia recognizes Kosova.

      * Croatia will veto the accession without a formal recognition of Kosova.

      * Hungary has unfinished territorial business with Serbia

      * Bulgaria has unfinished business with Serbia.

      Read the full comment />
      *Serbia needs the EU more than EU needs Serbia. If this was not the case, then Serbia wouldn't be applying for a membership. Makes clear sense to any rational individual.

      * Russia and China are not in the EU.

      So what is said publicly by the EU nations about Serbian accession into EU is just to help quell Serbian nationalism, the real business will happen when the hopefuls realize that in order to get you have to give.

      Good Luck Serbia, and soon both you and Kosova will be proud members of the EU!

    • Anonymous
      Koinos Nous Rating:
      #7 13, 23, Sat, Dec 19 2009

      There's a large unresolved issue between Serbia and Hungary about the Vojvodina, which Hungary claims was unjustly taken from Hungary by the Treaty of Trianon in 1919 (a grievance that every Hungarian Embassy is very well-briefed about.)

      It would be like Kosovo all over again, except that the Hungarians are much more skilful than the Albanians and much more subtle in their diplomacy.

      If I lived in Subotica, for example, I would decide it prudent to start learning Hungarian asap. Unfortunately, it is probably the most difficult language in Europe....

    • Anonymous
      Valeri Rating:
      #6 20, 01, Fri, Dec 18 2009

      "EU needs serbia more then serbia needs eu..NEVER FORGET THAT !!"

      You know what's gonna happen right? Serbia will be accepted in the EU, helped get on her feet, civilized, rebuilt, and the Serbs will go on for ever how they did the EU a favor. My European friends, if you think that BG's mentality is un-European, enjoy the next bunch!

    • Anonymous
      Agron Forlani Rating:
      #5 18, 37, Fri, Dec 18 2009

      This is the answer for all serb-nationalst ,That KOSOVA its gone forever from war criminals a serb nation..I m so glad that we dont have nothing incoming with war criminals serbs..I give EU 6 months and than they will see what kind of mistake they made ... cuz serbs are criminals ...I wonder to see Mladic in berlin walking free.

    • Anonymous
      benzo Rating:
      #4 18, 23, Fri, Dec 18 2009

      This nothing more then a game of "cat and mouse", last second negotiation of terms, on both sides. The official application will happen this year and be received well enough by all members. Kosovo will have no impact at this point, but serbian relations with china and russia will. EU needs serbia more then serbia needs eu..NEVER FORGET THAT !!

    • Anonymous
      Bilko Rating:
      #3 15, 33, Fri, Dec 18 2009

      Ivan you are very ignorant. Serbs as a nation are not holding any particular person away from the justice. You can't hold the whole country hostage for one or two people. Wake up little Ivan.

    • Anonymous
      Ivan Rating:
      #2 14, 21, Fri, Dec 18 2009

      Holland is right doing what's doing.Serbs have to give up their war criminals before they can join EU.

    • Anonymous
      Koinos Nous Rating:
      #1 12, 05, Fri, Dec 18 2009

      A good article, but a very complicated scenario. To use the Macedonian analogy, one "veto" might suffice to block it. Like the Netherlands, who have never forgotten their national humiliation when Serb soldiers overran the Netherlands "peacekeeping" force and annihilated Srebrenice.

      The Dutch are not exactly a Balkan power, but they too have long memories.....

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