Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Serbia moving forward

Serbia for better or for worse recently has been the best worst friend of the European Union in the Western Balkans. European Union leaders without too much of hiding were discussing what outcome they would prefer in the elections that took place in the country in May. Later on the same leaders were quick to take some credit for being instrumental in ensuring victory of the democratic forces.
Few months in the job the new pro-EU government received another present, in the recent progress report of the European Commission, Serbia was encouraged by suggesting the possibility for the country to acquire the candidate status in the EU in 2009 should all the conditions be met. Conditions are: cooperation with ICTY and efficient implementation of the existing laws to fight corruption and organised crime. Same progress report is not so generous to other Western Balkan countries. Is this another case for double standards? Or did EU decision makers finally found a solution for the riddle of instability in the region?
Answer to this is not straightforward, but clearly many elements to the answer can be found in the recent history and the role Serbia plays in the region. Break-up of Yugoslavia had painful consequences for the country. From the leading position that country had in the centre of regional power, Serbia became the “biggest looser”.

Serbia is the largest economy in the region and also the most influential political player as long as it is able to get its act together and agree internally. Recent political reconfiguration in the Radical circles in the country allowed some breathing space for the democrats and it also offered a chance to step up its efforts for greater integration in the EU. Road to the EU is not going to be quick and rosy, but it is the only road forward for the country that needs to rebuild its dignity, pride and increase living standards for the majority of the population.
European Union is right to offer so much incentive, because time has shown that if there is instability in Serbia, there is even more instability in the Western Balkans.

Kosovo is still a big elephant in the room, but even there it seems that things are moving. UNSC today will discuss the so-called “6 points plan” proposed by the Secretary General of the UN. It is based on the face saving measures for the Serbian government, which in principle won’t change much for reality on the ground. Kosovo is independent and while in public everyone opposes this fact, the same people also in private acknowledge that there is no way back.

Serbia remains to be critical for the stability in the region. This time around there is a real chance for greater progress while looking ahead to the future, instead of being soaked in its turbulent past.

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