Sunday

21st Jan 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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

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.

Taking full benefit of supercomputers in Europe

Newly-announced financial help for so-called 'supercomputers' can help both EU member states, and small and medium-sized companies to grow - in fields such as health diagnostics, driverless cars and even earthquake predicting.

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap