Despite the fact that European politicians are proposing new and faster ways for the Western Balkans to join the European Union, and despite positive signals coming from Brussels itself, the accession of new member states will not go so fast, some experts say, adding that the so-called “phased” accession, which was discussed in Belgrade with European Council President Charles Michel, can still initiate new reforms and help citizens.
“We want to provide concrete benefits to all Serbian citizens and all our partners in the region, and this means that the integration can take place during the EU accession negotiation process, instead of waiting for its completion,” European Council President Charles Michel said in Belgrade on May 19.
The Center for European Policy in Belgrade has been talking about the concept of “gradual entry” into the Union for months. And now, they say, there is finally an opportunity to unlock this policy both in the region and in the entire Union.
“The idea is that, on the one hand, the EU will give these gradual benefits even before the time of accession and this will politically encourage reforms and help citizens, and also accelerate the socio-economic development of the region and reduce our backlog with the EU,” believes the Center’s Milena Lazarevic.
However, this accelerated entry will not be so quick and one wonders whether Serbia has anything to offer in return at this political moment? And that would be a harmonization with the sanctions the Union has imposed on Belarus for its involvement in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With just such a stance, Serbia welcomed Charles Michel to Belgrade a few days ago. “I think Serbia is actually showing that it is ready to comply with all those elements regarding the EU’s foreign policy approach to Russia, except for the most severe sanctions. This is what Serbia is giving at the moment,” says Igor Novakovic from the ISAC Fund said.
Serbia has signed as many as 23 declarations, Vucic recalls, and none of them against Russia. “There are a lot of demands put in front of us, we have a lot of needs, and my job as president is to take care of Serbia, not to take care of the EU. We will take care of the EU when we become its member and it is very important for us to have a good relationship and to be on the road to accession,” Vucic underlined.
We will get in if we deserve it, said the program director of the Center for European Policy. Despite the goodwill in Brussels, we still have to solve some tasks, Novakovic says. “The idea is to give all these countries equal opportunities, and those who will implement reforms, who will show that they belong to the EU in terms of values and reforms, will progress (towards membership),” he explains.
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