Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Serbia economic growth boosts EU accession

Serbia is making progress in its bid to join the EU, but rising nationalism may hold it back, the European Commission says.

The country's recent economic rebound is a "promising indication" in its efforts towards EU membership, despite high government debt and youth unemployment, EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Wednesday (9 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Serbian GDP rose by 2.9 percent in the first half of this year, in part because of low oil prices - the country is an importer of oil.

But Hahn said more effort needed to be made on the rule of law, and that the temptation to resort to "nationalist rhetoric" in the forthcoming 2017 presidential election needed to be avoided.

"I hope that the forthcoming presidential elections are not leading to kind of a break in all these efforts as people might be distracted, might be tempted to use more nationalistic more populist rhetoric, which is definitely not helpful," he told reporters in Brussels.

The EU earlier this year opened two new chapters on the judiciary and fundamental rights, and on justice, freedom and security after Croatia lifted its veto to Serbia accession talks.

In its latest progress report, presented on Wednesday, the EU commission said Serbia's judiciary remains exposed to political influence.

It also noted that freedom of expression in Serbia, despite having put in a place the legal framework on fundamental rights, remains problematic.

Kosovo and Mitrovica bridge

Kosovo also remains a big issue where little has improved in terms of relations. The two sides remain bitter rivals given the legacy of the Yugoslav wars.

But the EU noted recent momentum in talks following work on the Mitrovica bridge in northern Kosovo.

The bridge separates the Serb-dominated north with Albanian south in Mitrovica and has come to represent an effort to restore relations in the divided city.

Hahn said "confidence building measures" between Serb authorities and their Kosovo counterparts are needed to further normalise relations.

"There are many many elements which only depend on Serbia and of course there are some elements where an enhanced dialogue is also necessary," said Hahn.

Hahn's comments were part of a broader EU commission probe into accession talks of the Western Balkan nations and Turkey. The EU commissioner described the Balkan states as emerging countries.

"You can expect much higher growth rates than in so to say in the old EU member states," he said.

Hahn said efforts are needed to create a "Western Balkan single market" to boost the region's economy.

Analysis

Serbia and the convenient spy

The manufactured cold war between Croatia and Serbia has been a convenient distraction from some of Serbia's domestic problems.

Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, Serbia's foreign minister has said, as the Western Balkans heads into a new period of turbulence.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  2. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  3. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  4. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  5. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  6. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  7. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  8. Former EU official sentenced for office rape

Opinion

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  2. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  3. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  4. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  5. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  6. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  7. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  8. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us