2.The EU as seen from Serbia
BSSB.BE ecfr.eu 22.03.2018
Balkans Ex-USSR Germany
*The EU has taken steps to protect itself from the risks of expansion
More political and technical accession process – Compared with previous rounds of enlargement, including up to some level even the newest one with Croatia (2013), our accession talks engage Member States much more.
That could have two opposite results: first, it could be easier to achieve membership if member states are included from the very beginning in following Serbia’s reforms. Being constructive, firstly, they can contribute through technical support and secondly, by regular monitoring they can provide additional legitimacy to the enlargement process and present it to their citizens.
On the other hand, that could introduce more bilateral issues into the negotiation process, or even blockage of the negotiation process from neighboring member states, which is already happening.
Early acceptance of membership obligations – Even at the early stages of accession talks, Serbia and other Western Balkan countries are tasked with introducing some elements of obligations of EU member states (including some which do not even apply to all member states).
The obligation to prepare an Economic Reform Programme in consultation with the EU (EMU light), or early legal alignment to enter the multilateral Energy Community and Transport Community, interconnectivity and TEN, are some of those examples. Those are the novelties in the accession talks, without precedent in previous rounds of EU Enlargement.
Some would argue that this is too much of a burden for candidates; others that the obligations are designed to increase their capacity so as to be better prepared for the demands of membership itself. Serbia is an example of the latter: through its early acceptance of membership obligations (such as fingerprinting migrants), Serbia made a valuable contribution to managing the migration crisis – more than some member states.
Regional initiatives – For the Western Balkans, owing to their recent turbulent past, regional cooperation is one of the essential criteria for membership, and regional initiatives are growing in numbers (according to some data, there are now more than 70 cross-border initiatives).
The introduction of the Berlin Process in 2014 gave rise to a suspicion that regional integration is intended to become a substitute for EU membership. But some of those initiatives are now becoming intrinsic parts of the negotiation process, and to a certain point regional integration now represents a new condition for membership. This can be accepted as long as those initiatives facilitate better preparation of the candidate countries to assume obligations of EU Member States.
- I argue that all of those points provide safety mechanisms for EU citizens to rest assured that newcomers will have to meet very strict conditions before they can become members.
- As such, further EU enlargement to the Western Balkans is not something to be feared. Rather, it can help spur further integration in several important EU common policies, including CSDP, Schengen Area, Energy Policy, Transport and Environment Policy.
This is in the best economic, political and security interests of both EU member states and Western Balkan countries. Understanding this symbiosis is the way to improve the way we see each other.
Prof.dr Tanja Miscevic is Head of the Negotiation Team for Accession of Serbia to the EU
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: eu