Serbia’s path to EU accession
Last week, Serbia and Kosovo finally reached an agreement on a number of issues that had previously slowed down their progress in the accession process for EU membership.
Friday’s agreement was reached after 10 rounds of failed negotiations. Serbia had rejected the mediated accord the week before because it felt that the agreement did not provide sufficient security and protection to the Serbs’ communities living in north Kosovo.
Serbia is the largest ex-Yugoslav republic. It has been an official candidate for EU membership since 2012. However, it has been slow to move past this status due to its relationship, or lack thereof, with Kosovo, which declared itself independent from Serbia in 2008.
Under last Friday’s agreement, Serbia still does not recognise Kosovo as an independent State.
Nevertheless, the agreement has been described as a win-win situation by both Serbia and Kosovo.
The agreement consists of 15 main points. The most important for advancing EU membership is the point which sets out that neither Serbia nor Kosovo will block each other’s attempts to join the EU or Nato.
The 15-point agreement also provides for the setting up of an association to administer the four Serbian regions of north Kosovo. This association will address educational and health issues in these areas.
The north will also have its own regional police commander.
The Serbian municipalities of the north will be elected under the Serbian electorallaws as opposed to Kosovo’s electoral system.
Finally, Kosovo’s security forces will not be deployed in the north for a number of years. Despite both Serbia and Kosovo seeing the agreement as a win-win situation, many of the Serbs in north Kosovo feel they are been abandoned. As a result many Serbian communities have carried out demonstrations in protest to the agreement.
Serbia’s accession talks were due to begin before the end of June, however, after the failure of numerous rounds of negotiations it was felt that December would be a more realistic date to begin accession talks.
The European Commission recommended this week that accession negotiations for Serbia’s EU membership should begin as soon as possible.
The recommendation follows last week’s breakthrough in negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo.
The report recently published by the European Commission was quite positive overall and took into account the progress that Serbia has made in a number of important areas. Apart from mending its relationship with Kosovo, Serbia needs to continue the reforms in a number of areas such as the protection of minors and media freedom.
In addition, the European Commission highlighted the need for Serbia to focus on good neighbourhood relations and to continue the fight against corruption and organised crime.
Following the unanimous approval of the 15-point agreement by the Serbian Government earlier this week, Serbia has urged EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, to set a date to begin negotiations. It is felt that setting a concrete date for the beginning of accession talks will increase Serbia’s economic growth as well as boost its efforts to push forward with the reforms necessary for EU membership.
It appears the markets of Balkan nations have suffered due to the lack of an actual date to begin talks. It is felt that the deal reached between Serbia and Kosovo will have a major impact on integrating the Western Balkans into the EU. However, Serbia’s accession process still faces many obstacles.
Member States such as Germany are becoming weary of the continued enlargement during a time of economic crisis.
Unfortunately for Serbia, it is lacking key allies within the EU and, more importantly, allies that can exert the same level of influence as Germany.
David Casa is a Nationalist MEP.