Serbia’s application to join the EU was finally made before X-mas. Early December EU
foreign ministers agreed to unblock Serbia's interim trade agreement,
which is part of Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). Serbia,
Macedonia, and Montenegro have been approved by EU for visa-free travel
within the EU Schengen area from January 2010. (More in my article “EU's visa-freedom dividing Balkans”).
Serbia's pro-western government is committed to achieve EU membership
same time in Serbia however anti-European feeling is growing and
according some long time polls the number of those against cooperation
with ICTY (Hague Tribunal) is on the rise again.
trade has been growing rapidly since 2000 and now the EU is Serbia's
main trading partner. In 2007 exports and imports of goods and services
to and from the EU increased to 56% of the country's total exports and
54% of its total imports, compared with 53% and 49% in 2006. However
during 2009 the economical activity between Serbia and Russia has
developed significantly and the prospects are even better mainly due
the starting implementation of South Stream and other projects related
visa-liberalization and the free-trade agreements one could ask what is
the added value for Serbia (as well for Bosnia-Herzegovina and
Montenegro too) to be a EU member state?
the application is the easy part of process, the real work for next
4-10 years is only beginning. The application will be placed on the
agenda of the EU Council of Ministers. If it gets the approval of the
ministers of all 27 EU member states, it will be forwarded to the
European Commission, which
will then send Serbia a questionnaire with 1000-4500 questions. dealing
with all institutions and sectors. Based on the answers, the European
Commission will report on the situation in the country which has
applied. And then are starting negotiations where some 80.000 pages of
EU regulations are applied to candidate country’s legislation.
negotiations EU will open different chapters related e.g. trade,
energy, internal affairs, food safety, citizen rights etc; EU also can
stop opening chapters because of whatever political reasons. This kind
of issues can be e.g. cooperation with Hague and Kosovo question.
And the neighbours
in 2009, with the country now entering its final phase of negotiations.
In addition to agreeing on a financial package (see first story), the
Council decided to set up a working group to draft an accession treaty.
In relation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Council
noted the Commission's recommendation to begin negotiations and agreed
to return to the issue under the Spanish Presidency. Ministers were
"encouraged" by recent positive developments between Skopje and Athens
on the dispute over the use of the name "Macedonia".
presented the completed questionnaire to Commission on early December.
Based on the Commission's Opinion the Council will have to decide
whether the country is ready to be granted candidate status or open
membership negotiations. Montenegro applied to join the EU in December
2008 and the Council formally asked the Commission to prepare an
opinion on the application four months later.
On 16 December it was Albania's turn to receive a pre-accession questionnaire.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Council reiterated its position that
membership negotiations could not begin until the Office of the High
Representative has been closed and replaced with a reinforced EU
presence. It called on the country to "urgently speed up key reforms"
and stressed the need for "a shared vision of the common future of the
country by its leadership, and the political will to meet European
can be also freeze the process if there is some unfinished border
dispute with candidate country. Montenegro’s way with towards EU seems
clear but it is hard to believe that Serbia and EC will soon agree
which are the borders of Serbia – are they including Kosovo or not? After
all the refined negotiation process however the climax will be
political one – EU can take new members with any criteria and lower
standards like it was case with Bulgaria and Romania.
have no doubt that both Montenegro and Serbia can and will give
satisfactory answers to EC questionnaire and have good ability to
fulfill (pre) conditions. Both countries have so good administrative
capacity that they can match all criteria needed for membership. Serbia has already prepared a document “National Programme for Integration of Serbia into EU
” (NPI) which with its 900 pages describes the integration activities of different sectors..
has demonstrated its commitment to moving closer to the EU by building
up a track record in implementing the provisions of the Interim
Agreement with the EU and by undertaking key reforms. On 14 October 2009 the Commission adopted its annual strategy document explaining its policy on EU enlargement.
More about EU Commission's country conclusions in my article “West Balkans soon ready for EU – at least part of it
My point of view
estimation still is that there will be some grey area between non- and
full EU membership. During next few years Turkey will come an energy
hub through implementation of Blue Stream pipeline from Russia and
South Stream, possible implementation of Nabucco and planned import of
gas from Iraq and Iran. So in energy game Turkey will have some aces;
if not membership EU must offer very attractive “third way” solution
for Turkey, why not do the same with some states of the Western Balkans
position is a bit similar due the South Stream project which is going
ahead in comparison with Nabucco, even faster than in my earlier
estimation few months ago. Nabucco has got more problems with energy
supply sources when Azerbaijan on December decided to sell bigger share
of its gas to Russia and new gas pipe from Turkmenistan to China is
Balkan countries have their own development paths – some countries are
going to join fast to EU (Croatia), some are going to do it later
(Macedonia, Albania), some are maybe looking alliances from other
directions (Serbia), Kosovo will be international protectorate also
next decade; Bosnia will totter between breakup,
federation/confederation, state, protectorate depending inner politics
and exterior influences.
my point of view Serbia should think if joining to EU is worth of time,
money and bureaucracy it demands. Visa arrangements, free trade and
some EU programs are possible also for non-members. However I think
that at this moment it would be good idea to continue EU process but
not because of fulfilling EU needs. The motivation should be the needs
of the beneficiaries aka Serbs not EU elite in Brussels. Also from my
point of view Serbia should not put all eggs in the same basket;
economical cooperation with Russia and other BRIC countries can create
real development on the ground instead slow development on the EU's