Monday

28th Sep 2020

Opinion

Serbia faces historic turning point

  • Serbian and EU flags. Lajcak was until recently the EU foreign service's top man on the Balkans (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Having visited Belgrade after its recent presidential elections, I returned home with a strong impression that once again Serbia finds itself at a crossroads.

The meetings with newly-elected President Tomislav Nikolic, with deputy prime minister Ivica Dacic, defence minister Dragan Sutanovac and foreign minister Vuk Jeremic have all revealed a strong consensus by the main political forces about Belgrade's European path.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

It is time that this vision takes concrete form in the very near future. It is important for the people of Serbia, for the stability of the region and for Europe as a whole.

The news about the outcome of presidential elections in Serbia reached me - as well as almost all my European colleagues - in Chicago where we had been attending the Nato Summit.

The victory of Nikolic, until then the opposition leader, proved that the country's political landscape had become more complex and that the EU needs to be involved in an intensive dialogue with Serbian authorities and all political leaders from the very first moment.

We had an immediate exchange of views with EU high representative Catherine Ashton. A joint invitation by Baroness Ashton and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for the new Serbian President to visit Brussels is a confirmation that the EU wants to continue its open approach towards Serbia in line with the country's European future.

Serbia has gone a long way to becoming a candidate country for EU membership. Now it stands at an important point - the opening of accession negotiations.

Such a step would ultimately bring the European agenda to Serbia's politics and would make future EU membership a visible and tangible goal. Serbia is looking for same perspective as Croatia - now due to become an EU member in 2013.

This year could be a turning point in Serbia's European history.

In order to ensure the opening of accession negotiations, the criteria set by EU member states and the European Commission must be met. Reforms started during previous years must continue.

Slovakia as an EU member state stands ready to support Belgrade and share the lessons learned during the integration process. The European Union expects the new Serbian government to be fully focused on necessary reforms with EU integration as its ultimate goal.

Among the criteria, normalisation of relations with Pristina is given prominence. The issue of Kosovo is a very sensitive one in Serbian politics.

Many representatives have tried to find a balance between the national interest in European integration and this issue. However, this is no longer a progressive method. Full focus on accession to the EU will be necessary in order to succeed.

The process of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina - as agreed by the UN General Assembly resolution proposed jointly by the EU and Serbia in September 2010 - has so far led to agreements on various issues from the mutual recognition of university diplomas to regional representation.

The latter contributed to the fact that Serbia was granted candidate country status. Resumption of the dialogue, its continuation as well as the implementation of previously achieved agreements is necessary.

The EU has played a very important facilitating role in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and it should continue to do so as only the Union provides a perspective of shared reality to both sides.

A form or structure of the dialogue can be refined in order to make it more regular, to involve higher political representations, but the essence is clear - talks must be continued and they should result in agreements and their implementation.

Achieving a viable and functional situation in north Kosovo will be very sensitive for the parties involved. The international community expects Serbia's contribution towards this goal. We have to avoid creation of another frozen conflict in Europe, a conflict that would spoil chances of another generation to live their lives as European citizens.

Historical moments require leaders to take responsible decisions.

The new political reality in Serbia underlines the importance of a responsible approach of all relevant political forces. The decisions to be taken shall open a European chapter in Serbia's future. A broad political consensus will be the most important factor that can bring Belgrade - as an important part of the Western Balkans region and the European Union - to a new level of co-operation.

The writer is the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Slovakia

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Serbia: deja vu no more

In a sign of gradual normalisation, Serbia's core concerns now mirror those of much of Europe, writes Dimitar Bechev.

EU must open its eyes to Balkan realities

The EU does not seem to understand the urgency of the situation in the Balkans, even though it has hundreds of diplomats and officials posted to the region, writes Jeton Zulfaj.

Now's the time to give QMV a chance in EU foreign policy

The loudest applause from MEPs during Ursula von der Leyen's State of the Union speech came for her call to move to Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in foreign policy - at least on human rights and sanctions implementation.

European hiccups on the way to West Africa

The EU is expected to soon, perhaps this week, to release its renewed Sahel strategy, which was in dire need of a revamp and which will no doubt reflect some of the words of foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.

Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?

Months after Black Lives Matter erupted, for many EU decision-makers the problems of racism in policing and criminal legal systems - the issues that sparked the George Floyd protests - are still 'over there', across the Atlantic.

How EU can help end Uighur forced labour

A recent report noted apparel and footwear as the leading exports from the Uighur region - with a combined value of $6.3bn [€5.3bn] representing over 35 percent of total exports.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Caucasus warfare prompts EU alarm
  2. Summit reloaded and last Brexit round This WEEK
  3. EU denies 'clandestine' mission on Venezuela election date
  4. Between the lines, Europe's new Moria unfolds
  5. Now's the time to give QMV a chance in EU foreign policy
  6. European hiccups on the way to West Africa
  7. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  8. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us