Monday, February 10, 2014

Start of EU Membership Negotiations With Serbia and The European Integration of Western Balkans

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the NATO increase their activities in the Balkans, and the former Communist Bloc started to join these organizations as their members. In this process, Croatia became the latest member of the EU on 1 July 2013. On 21 January 2014, Serbia began negotiations for EU membership.

Serbia towards the EU...
Along with 5 other Western Balkans countries, Serbia was identified as a potential candidate for EU membership during the Thessaloniki European Council summit in 2003. In 2008, a European partnership for Serbia was adopted, setting out priorities for the country's membership application, and in 2009 Serbia formally applied. In March 2012 Serbia was granted EU candidate status. In September 2013 a Stabilization and Association Agreement between the EU and Serbia entered into force. In line with the decision of the European Council in June 2013 to open accession negotiations with Serbia, the Council adopted in December 2013 the negotiating framework and agreed to hold the 1st Intergovernmental Conference with Serbia in January 2014. On 21 January 2014, the 1st Intergovernmental Conference took place, signaling the formal start of Serbia's accession negotiations.

The EU Membership negotiations are difficult to predict in advance how long one but as one of the Western Balkan counties and one of the former Yugoslav countries, Croatia's full membership negotiations with the EU lasted about six years .

Start of EU Membership Negotiations with Serbia is very important in terms of spreading the peace, democracy and the EU standards throughout all of Europe. Well, the EU membership for Serbia is an easy and convenient way? As each of candidate countries, Serbia is required to complete 35 chapters. Serbia's priorities in order to complete this chapter is required to make constitutional changes and reforms. As in all the Balkan countries, Serbia has some problems on democracy, corruption, minority rights and freedom issues. In addition, as Serbia does not recognize Kosovo's independence, this is also a problem. Thus, Serbia's accession process does not seem like an easy way.

Why Serbia wants to join the EU?
There are several reasons. The first and the most important reason is economic stability. The rate of unemployment is the biggest problem in Serbia. PM of Serbia, Ivica Dacic said, referring to Serbia's 25% unemployment rate, which sits below only Spain and Greece in the EU. The other reasons are higher standard of living, better law, less corruption, more opportunities in education, technological advancement, and free EU funds such as IPA. The second level of benefits is energy stability, EU law as member's protection in many aspects, no visa....

The EU is huge market. EU membership is a chance for Serbia to join the world's largest trading bloc and will offer access to funding for infrastructure projects and the country's poorer regions.

Serbia can join the EU without Recognizing of Kosovo?
On Tuesday, January 21, 2014, after the start of Serbia's accession negotiations with the EU, Kosovo issue has come directly to mind. Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said that his country will not recognize Kosovo's independence as the price for entering the European Union.

While "normalization" of ties between Serbia and Kosovo is a key criterion for each side's hopes of European integration, MEPs remain divided on whether “normalized" relations must include mutual diplomatic recognition. Ulrike Lunacek, European Parliament rapporteur for Kosovo, on Monday that Serbia would have to recognize the independence of its former province before joining the EU because the club does not want “a second Cyprus. “Even the non-recognizers [of Kosovo's independence] won’t accept Serbia in the EU if Serbia does not recognize it [Kosovo] because that would mean something like Cyprus,” she added. The EU allowed Cyprus to join in 2004 although the island remains divided into Greek and Turkish areas. Many European politicians have since described this as a mistake, as the Cyprus government has used its position inside the EU to isolate Turkish Cypriots. “The ideal thing would be to have both countries joining at the same time," the MEP said, referring to Kosovo and Serbia.

Serbia expects everything positive from the EU, except Kosovo - a hot potato in the mouth. Kosovo got independency, someone should accept in Belgrade. It's not possible overnight. As you know economic stability is primary reason of EU membership. There will not be easy to become member, there are many things to do. What can they lose? Kosovo? It's already independent. Actually Serbia could not control Kosovo for almost a three decade. They have border with Albania, but Kosovars didn't cooperate in anything.

Is there any other option for Serbia except EU membership in its foreign policy?
Right now, it seems there is no another option. Russia is far and didn't invest so much in Serbia, Greece is in debt. Who will help? Milosevic try to walk alone and gave up.

Does Russia support Serbia's Eu membership?
Yes, why not? It's better to sell expensive gas to EU and young members or candidates. Russia only does not support Serbian NATO membership. The enlargement process of the EU continues, and the Union's eastern border has reached to the Balkan countries and the Black Sea. During the Cold War, Russia saw Balkans as backyard is a fact. Primarily need to mention here is that the Russia's Cold War tactics that will not be very effective in the Balkans today, because Russia has not a good offer for Balkan countries to be an alternative for EU.

However, Russia has not given up her interests in the Balkans. The EU aims to diversify away from Russian natural gas supplies, but Russian gas supplies destined for Europe will pass directly through the Balkans. Thus, Russia will continue to remain Europe's primary energy supplier.

Moreover, Serbia cannot be an island inside the EU. Switzerland is exception with reason. Russia intend to have own player inside EU. Why to do that? Gas is very expensive now. In last 10 years, the price was going up for 70-100%.

If Serbia joins to Eu, how it will affect Western Balkans?
You cannot be new member and immediately spread some negative things, but if Serbia joins to the EU, Western Balkans positively affected by this imminent event. Serbia’s EU Membership can provide more stability in this region.

 İsa Burak GONCA


European Commission, “Enlargement: Serbia”, 2014,

JOY, Oliver “Serbian Prime Minister: We will be next to join European Union”, CNN, 2013, 

Kosovo Compromise, “Serbia Must Recognise Kosovo to Join EU, MEP”, 2014, 

RUPNIK,  Jacques, “The Western Balkans and The EU: The hour of Europe”, Chaillot Papers, June 2011