News / Europe

    Serbia Welcomes Merkel on Threshold of EU Bid

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks as she gestures with Serbian President Boris Tadic, in Belgrade, Serbia, August 23, 2011
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks as she gestures with Serbian President Boris Tadic, in Belgrade, Serbia, August 23, 2011
    Dianna Cahn

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Serbia for a visit before a European Commission decision later this year on whether Serbia can become an official candidate to join the European Union. The visit is the first by a German head of state since 2003 and many in Belgrade hope it is indicative of how far this troubled nation has come in its efforts to integrate into the European heartland.

    The welcome of the European leader comes at a time of hope for this Balkan nation, that after nearly a decade of waiting to join the European Union, the goal is in reach.

    But rather than being a celebration of the many reforms Serbia has implemented, Tuesday’s visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overshadowed by political tensions.

    Late last month, problematic relations between Serbia and Kosovo took a sour turn, creating problems that could complicate Serbia’s EU bid.

    She said, we see Serbia’s future as inside the European Union, but there are still quite some obstacles in the way.

    The European Commission will meet in October to consider whether to grant Serbia candidacy status for EU membership.

    The government has implemented reforms in its economic sector and joined regional trade agreements.  It bolstered human-rights laws and passed electoral reforms intended to ensure members of parliament are accountable to their constituents.

    Serbia also entered into dialogue with Kosovo, whose secession and declaration of independence from Belgrade in 2008 rips at the heart of Serbian nationalism.

    Most significantly, Merkel congratulated Serbia for recently arresting two key war-crimes suspects, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic and transferring them to the Hague.  That appeared to remove a significant hurdle for European candidacy.

    But last month, just days after Hadzic was arrested, bilateral negotiations with Kosovo collapsed when the capital Pristina, demanded a Kosovo customs stamp at its border crossings with Serbia.  Belgrade saw this as trying to force it to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

    When the talks stalled, Pristina moved its own police to two administrative border crossings between Serbia and Northern Kosovo, a lawless region where ethnic Serbs feel unprotected and organized crime holds sway.  Rioters burned down one border post, and international peacekeepers had to step in while Belgrade negotiated with Pristina to regain calm.

    Serbian officials say the escalation was an attempt to derail its E.U. efforts and have made clear that if forced to choose, recognition of Kosovo is a line it will not cross, even for entry into the E.U.

    "Serbia wants solutions.  Serbia does not want to perpetuate the conflict," said Serb President Boris Tadic.  "We want a normal life for not only Serbians, but for Albanians as well.  But at the same time, we want to preserve our integrity just like any other normal country."

    Chancellor Merkel urged Belgrade to resume normalization talks with Pristina.  A peaceful life in the European Union will not be possible, she said, without all western Balkan countries being E.U. member states.

    Serb President Boris Tadic said he plans to do that.  But he also called for the European Union to openly condemn Pristina’s actions last month.

    "We expect from the EU to a take a clear stand on Pristina, he said, and to make clear to the Albanian leadership in Pristina, that for us it is absolutely unacceptable to reward unilateral acts or acts of violence and with the new realities they create on the ground. Serbia stays committed to peaceful solutions we want to continue a dialog about Kosovo," added Tadic.

    As Serbia moves forward, it faces many more hurdles and its people are already growing weary of the long, bumpy road to Europe.

    A recent government poll found the number of Serbs supporting EU candidacy has dropped significantly, even while support for the reforms being implemented in the process grew to more than 70 percent.

    Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence founder Sonja Liht sees this as a sign of a maturing nation, but one that is increasingly disillusioned.

    "There is also a feeling sometimes here that Serbia cannot win and that if one condition has been fulfilled, a new condition will emerge," said Liht.

    Talks with Kosovo are expected to resume in September, just a few weeks before the European Commission recommendation on Serbia.

    You May Like

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora