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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More