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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.