Sunday

25th Sep 2022

Serbia starts EU membership talks

  • Serbia wants to be ready to join the EU by 2020 (Photo: European Commission)

It was on the UN sanctions list and bombed by Nato in the 1990s Balkan wars, but Serbia on Tuesday (21 January) officially started EU membership talks at a ceremony in Brussels.

It will take several years of talks before it can join.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But the Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, who flew in to the EU capital, described the event as the "most important moment for Serbia since the end of World War II.”

He said his country is now seen for what it wants to be - an EU member state - instead of people focusing on its role in past conflicts.

"This cabinet took office 18 months ago and nobody expected this from us. We surprised you, because expectations were very low," he noted.

He added that he had never heard "such nice words about Serbia" since the times of the Yugoslav-era Communist leader Josip Tito, who was popular in the West for his liberal policies compared to the rest of the Soviet bloc.

"I am sorry there was nothing to sign today, else I would have sent the pen to the museum," Dacic quipped.

He promised to continue Serbia’s normalisation of relations with Kosovo - the main sticking point in recent EU-Serb relations, but dodged the question whether his government will ever recognise the independence of its former province.

Dacic noted that EU member states themselves have "different positions" on Kosovo status.

"Nobody in Brussels asked us to change our position. Our goal is the normalisation of relations with Pristina, we need that," he said.

The government in Belgrade will continue reforms and aims to wrap up EU negotiations by 2020, he added.

For neighbouring Croatia, who joined the EU in July 2013, it also took six years to complete accession talks.

For his part, EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele praised Serbia for its efforts on Kosovo.

He said the start of accesion talks is a "well-deserved recognition" of the developments.

He said this time around talks will start with the most difficult "chapters" - justice and home affairs - which will be also the last ones to be closed.

"There are new elements in the accession process based on lessons learned. These changes have the goal to strengthen the credibility of this process," Fuele said, referring to ongoing corruption problems in the last three EU countries which joined, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.

EU enlargement heading into chilly period

The EU commission is not recommending any fresh steps on Western Balkan enlargement in the next 12 months, with one official saying the policy is in "de facto freeze".

EU seeks crisis powers to take control over supply chains

The Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) introduces a staged, step-by-step, approach — providing emergency powers to the EU Commission to tackle any potential threat which could trigger disruptions or shortages of key products within the EU.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

Editorial

Background reads: Italy's election

With Italy heading to the ballot boxes this Sunday, let's take a look at what EUobserver has published that can help understand the country's swing to the (far)-right.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us