The day before the publication of the European Commission’s report on Serbia’s progress in the accession process, the report’s draft text says that “Serbia’s compliance with EU’s foreign policy has significantly decreased – from 64 per cent in 2020 to 45 per cent today.”
The draft report also says Serbia ‘has not harmonised its policy of sanctions against Russia’ that the EU adopted in response to the aggression in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on supporting the European future of the Western Balkans, calling for a new impetus to the EU enlargement process.
In almost eight months of the war, Brussels introduced eight packages of sanctions on Moscow. Although Belgrade has not joined the sanctions against Russia, Serbia voted in March for a UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion. Experts are not surprised by the almost 20 per cent drop in the alignment of Serbia’s foreign policy with that of Brussels.
“In the first period, although we aligned with the key decisions made by international institutions, it was not enough to show some level of proactivity and show Serbia’s determination to side with its European partners in this particular case,” says Milena Lazarevic of the Centre for European Policy.
A candidate country is formally obliged to comply with the sanctions until it joins the Union. The war in Ukraine has changed expectations, as well as those of people in Serbia. This year’s public opinion survey shows that 44 per cent of citizens are against European accession, while 35 per cent are in favour.
“The whole talk about European integration is completely archived and anachronistic, and I really think that whatever message comes from Brussels, it should not worry our citizens or our country very much. What the country should do is look at the alternatives – the world has four faces,’ says Stevan Gajić of the Institute for European Studies.
Lawyer Milan Antonijević believes that messages from Brussels should not be understood as blackmail or pressure on Serbia. “On the contrary, they should be viewed as a mirror – we can improve those areas that are not sufficiently regulated and where we didn’t make enough progress in the next period and pay much more attention to them,” Antonijević adds.
“As far as the harmonisation of European policy towards Russia is concerned, it is enough for the EU to address its members, for example, Hungary, which to a large extent deviates from the policy of most other members. Serbia, unlike most European countries, has not committed economic suicide by imposing sanctions on Russia,’ Gajić said.
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