February 14, 2009
After meeting Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Dacic in Brussels on 9 February, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn advised Belgrade not to rush with its formal application for EU membership, admitting that the political climate is not good for enlargement. Dacic said his country was considering applying for EU membership during the Czech EU Presidency, but Rehn clearly advised Belgrade to hold its horses – reports EurActiv.
Recently I have been very positive about a breakthrough in EU-Serbia relations. The country, which fought a series of wars in the Balkans in the 90s and faced a military conflict with some European EU-NATO members have been very slowly moving from a Russian to a European alliance. 2008 was a Serbian breakthrough in this process with the narrow win of a pro-European bloc in the elections, the capture of the fugitive alleged war criminal Karadzic, and also the split of the nationalist opposition, which for the first time since 1989 created a real political majority for European accession.
A Serbian accession would be a political breakthrough in the painful post-war transition of the Balkans from dictatorship, planned economy and civil war to a democratic and market oriented society. Serbia has been the strongest, least peaceful and least co-operative former Yugoslav state, and probably also the strongest in the region. A Serbian accession would also boost the hard-hit regional Romanian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Slovenian and Austrian, and even the Italian and Greek economies, which are tied to the center of the Balkans.
Although Mr Rehn’s point of view is very logical from Brussels, it looks to be a strategic mistake in the long run. If the fragile political majority in Serbia for a European alliance weakens, the EU might be stuck in the muddle of the Balkans politics, peacekeeping for another decade and also loose out in a new and unsaturated market.