A Long Road for Serbia…

Serbian President Boris Tadic (left) shakes hands with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm on December 22, after submitting his country's application for EU membership.

Serbia overcame many obstacles to submit its application to the European Union, but the country has many hurdles ahead. Boris Tadic hopes for a quick accession to the tight group of 27 member states, but what’s next for Serbia as the latest country to apply?

Any country wishing to become an EU member must meet a strict set of criteria. First, the country must adapt all EU law to its domestic system. The text of EU law is estimated to be about 70,000 to 80,000 pages long, so this is no easy task. Second, the country must meet economic criteria. Serbia must stabilize its market economy in order to become competitive with other member states. Lastly, there are political criteria such as having a stable democracy, respect for the law, and respect for human rights- in particular to the protection of minorities.

Still, the EU resembles an exclusive club, and becoming a member is far more than meeting specific criteria. The reality is that many of the EU member states are wary about enlarging. The older members in particular feel that the EU enlarged too fast and needs a period of rest. Although the EU claims they are committed to enlarging to the western Balkans, some member states may drag out the process of Serbia’s acceptance.

Also, it’s a problem that General Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military leader indicted on charges of war crimes and genocide in the wars in the 1990s is still missing. Holland is particularly outspoken about the necessity of his arrest before Serbia has a future in the European Union. Serbia extradited former leader Slobodan Milosevic who died while on trial in The Hague, and most recently Radovan Karadzic. The European Union commends Serbia on cooperating with The Hague, but Mladic seems to be a significant missing piece of Serbia’s acceptance to the EU.

Lastly, the issue of Kosovo needs to be addressed. Not every member state of the European Union recognizes Kosovo as an independent state, but the majority recognizes the declaration. If Spain, Romania, and Slovakia have not recognized Kosovo’s independence, why must Serbia? The European Union is divided over the issue and thus cannot demand Serbia to accept Kosovo as independent. Still, it seems to me that Kosovo and Serbia need to figure out some agreement in order for Serbia to move forward.

Analysts say Serbia faces a long path to EU membership and that the process could take 5 to 8 years. Tadic is convinced Serbia will be a member by 2014. I am so pleased that Serbia submitted their application and that the country is trying to make reforms as quickly as possible. Joining the EU will bring Serbia out of isolation, but there is a long and difficult road ahead.

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  1. Hopefully Serbia gets its goal soon but maybe Tadic was too optimistic.

    Anyway, the most difficult handicaps to overcome are in Serbia itself, I mean, what will happen if in the next elections the Radical Party wins when they are openly against to join EU?

    And how will they sort out the problem of Kosovo? it seems like impossible.

    The rest is just a question of time and hard work, and Holland is convinced that they really don’t know where is Mladic.

    And the m

  2. All may be well with the inclusion of Serbia into the European Union, but what about the lingering regional affects to Bosnia – still in socio-economic ruins from Serbia’s former sickeningly brutal attack on Bosnia’s people. Tadic may as well take that same Swedish-shaking hand and slap a Bosnian in the face with it.

    Just in the past two years, countless dollars have funneled into Bosnia, Sarajevo in particular, to create this aesthetic fix to underlying problems that have poisoned the ethnic heart-centers of a generation of Bosnians. This can’t be fixed with laws and office buildings (or yet another embassy for the U.S. in Sarajevo).

    People are still starving in Bosnia, while newly built shopping centers and the removal of war-damaged building begin to draw in tourists again – those who likely don’t have a clue what’s really happening there.

    Money spent to feed the capitalist machine there isn’t funding food for the needy, but is rather ushering forth a new era of corruption into the area. Ever since regional pressure to enter the EU has ramped up, so has inflation – something Bosnian citizens cannot afford. The common every day person is often overlooked amid the excitement of development. And I suspect the same gangsters that oppressed Bosnians during the 1990s war are reaping most of the benefits from this attempt to move toward ‘regional reparation and stability.’

    I may sound cynical, but I’ve done a fair share of living and journalistic work in Bosnia. I lived with everyday Bosnians, every day, for months – internalizing their pain and plights. The day I return to Sarajevo and witness the rebuilding of the industrial infrastructure that provided citizens with hope, a decent living and a chance at economic freedom, as well as personal independence and the fruits for which a real democracy should entail, will I have faith that the powers at be aren’t just maintaining the status quo through a different mask…

    • Christine
    • February 4th, 2010

    Hey Jeff,
    Thanks for the comment. A few issues- first of all, the conflict in Bosnia was not as simple as Serbs attacking “Bosnians.” Secondly, tourists may not have a clue about the history of the region, but they will still help to improve Bosnia’s economic future.

    I was quite happy to see that physical evidence of war is not terribly visible in Sarajevo. People should not have to live with constant, visual reminders of war in their immediate surroundings, even if this means building new commercial centers during the transition. The people of Bosnia are still feeling the emotional and psychological effects of war. Hopefully the rebuilding of infrastructure, democracy and acceptance of others will come, but that will take much more time than building of malls with expensive shops. Still, I think this is the reality of transition and I join you in the hope that Bosnia recovers as soon as possible.

    Thanks for the comment, C

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