“Judging from the latest European Commission reports for the Western Balkan region, there is a new momentum in the EU enlargement process, with Brussels proposing the entry talks with Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina and making Georgia a membership candidate,” the Financial Times (FT) writes.
“No country has joined the EU since Croatia in 2013. But to judge from the recommendations last Wednesday of the European Commission, there is genuinely new momentum behind the once-stalled project of EU enlargement. Brussels proposes opening entry talks with Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and making Georgia a membership candidate — a rung lower on the ladder,” the renowned British daily writes.
As for the Western Balkan countries’ chances of joining the EU any time soon, the FT adds:” All potential members — including six Balkan states but most likely not Turkey — are reminded that they must implement the political, economic and administrative reforms needed to make them fit for admission. But the general message is clear – EU enlargement is desirable, and even necessary, because of the dangers confronting Europe after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.” However, judging by the European Commission’s recent reports, no aspirant member is close to meeting all the entry criteria on democracy, the rule of law and economic standards.
The FT goes on to report that Serbia is one of those countries and the largest candidate in the Balkans in terms of population and territory.
“Serbia, we are told, is doing too little to settle its differences with Kosovo… Its foreign policy is insufficiently aligned with the EU, in particular because of its closeness to Russia. Serbia has made limited progress in tackling corruption and organised crime. Media independence is weak. In truth, the commission would have been justified in using even stronger language. The Kosovo dispute is a formidable obstacle to Serbia’s EU entry. But no less serious is the question of whether President Aleksandar Vučić and his Serbian Progressive party are sincere about wanting to join the 27-nation bloc. A more realistic reading of Serbia’s policies suggests that the ruling elite’s chief objective is simply to stay in power, by restricting political opposition and controlling the judiciary, security apparatus, public sector and media in ways that defy the EU’s basic values.”
As for Serbia’s alleged closeness with Russia and China and its consequences, the FT reports that in July, the US imposed sanctions on Aleksandar Vulin, “the head of Serbia’s state security agency and a Vučić ally, for alleged involvement in international organised crime, narcotics operations, ties with Russia and “promoting ethno-nationalist narratives that fuel instability in Serbia and the region”. This accusation against Vulin, who resigned this month, refers to the emergence under Vučić’s rule of the concept of a “srpski svet”, or Serbian world — a notion that recalls President Vladimir Putin’s promotion of a “Russky mir”, or Russian world,” the Financial Times goes on to say and add that this accusation against Vulin, who resigned this month, “refers to the emergence under Vučić’s rule of the concept of a “srpski svet”, or Serbian world — a notion that recalls President Vladimir Putin’s promotion of a “Russky mir”, or Russian world”.
The notion of the Serbian world, the Financial Times says, implies that “not only Kosovo but Montenegro and the Republic of Srpska, the Serb-inhabited part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, ought to be part of a Greater Serbian political sphere. Such goals are utterly incompatible with EU membership, but the problem does not stop there.”
The FT concludes that although “Brussels deserves credit for pushing ahead with EU enlargement plans, in Serbia the process is at a standstill and losing credibility — casting doubt on whether these plans will solve the problem of democratic backsliding and regional instability in the Balkans.”
(N1, The Financial Times, 12.11.2023)
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