Serbia has regressed in the process of aligning its foreign policy with the EU. This was stated in yesterday’s European Commission report in the latest annual EU enlargement package.
The document also states that the compliance rate has ‘significantly’ decreased, from 64 per cent the previous year to 45 per cent, due to Serbia’s refusal to comply with EU sanctions against Russia.
Milan Igrutinović, research associate at the Institute for European Studies in Belgrade, and Nikola Burazer, programme director of the Non-Governmental Centre for Contemporary Politics, spoke about the consequences this report could have for Serbia, the possible pressure on the Kosovo-Serbian dialogue and Serbia’s European perspective.
Igrutinović says that it is almost certain that there will be no opening of new clusters in December if there are no concrete changes in Serbia’s position. “This refers mainly to the sanctions against Russia. Last year, in December, Serbia opened cluster 4, after about two years of nothing happening. A sort of de facto freezing of negotiations is already in place. Serbia will still have the right to use pre-accession funds, but negative signals towards Serbian policy are multiplying in Brussels and among European representatives. This can be seen in practice too, whether in the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, or in some of the demands made on Serbia, such as an exemption from the import of Russian oil. Serbia can expect to suffer negative consequences,’ says Igrutinović.
Nikola Burazer believes that the consequences of Serbia’s non-compliance with EU sanctions on Russia are already visible. “Serbia’s European course is currently at a standstill. It is illusory to talk about Serbia’s future in Europe until the country imposes sanctions (against Russia). This is perhaps the most important test for a country to see how ready it is and how much it agrees with the EU values. Serbia refusing to comply with sanctions on Russia sends a bad message and creates an ugly image of Serbia in every sense. The consequences for Serbia may be unfathomable and overtake the EU integration process. The EU, as a community, is Serbia’s most important trading partner and the biggest investor. All this is at risk because Serbia does not have the political will to harmonise with the EU,’ says Burazer.
The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said that Serbia’s EU accession process will be ‘slowed down’ if Belgrade does not impose sanctions on Russia.
Borrell told N1 television that “the EU accession process requires alignment with its foreign policy”. “In the European Commission report, we see that Serbia, as well as Turkey, are wavering on the issue of alignment with EU foreign policy. The decline in alignment combined with close relations with the Putin regime means that there is no choice but to signal a decline in alignment within Chapter 31,” Borrell said. He also stated that ‘there is no deadline’ by which Serbia must introduce sanctions against Russia and added that Serbia ‘must follow EU foreign policy’.
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