Basic Information about Serbia:
Near the Mediterranean Sea, in former Yugoslavia, there is a country with its capital, Belgrade. The parliamentary democracy Serbia has a population of 6 million, but they are getting less, since more and more people from the middle class are leaving the country. Despite this trend in the population, the economy rises since 2009, but not very fast. The unemployment rate is at 16%. All-in-all, the economy develops sagging and slow.
But joining European Union can be a turning point for Serbian economy: negotiations have started in 2005 and the country has been recognized as an official candidate in 2008, though there are still 35 deals to complete to conform Serbian legal system to communitarian conventions – so far, only two of the 35 chapters have been successfully closed. As Aleksandar Vucic of the Progressive Party became Prime minister in 2014, he started multiple reforms, so he comes closer to his target (he’s currently President of the Serbian Republic since 2017).
Why joining the EU / Kosovo Conflict:
The reasons for Serbia for joining the European Union are obvious; 85% of Serbia’s commerce is going on with the European Union and most of the direct investments are coming from EU-States. The banking system is handled by European countries as well. You can say, that in most economical points, they are already EU-member.
But from the political view, they are not. They do not have a right to a say in a matter in the European Union and do not have any access to appropriation from the EU. That causes a very extensive inequality. Between 2005 and 2016 the deficit from all west Balkan states, produced through this inequality, reached 97 billion Euros. This money from the national product of these countries has been transferred to richer EU-members. The result is that these states must borrow credits and that they must fight against foreign debts, which is another reason why deals with EU are so slow.
Another big problem seems to be that Serbia doesn’t accept the independence of the Kosovo, a former province of Serbia mostly populated by Albanians, that declared independence in 2008. They are accepting the country and Vucic himself was the first Serbian leader to visit Albania, but they are still claiming, and Kosovan declaration of independence is still unlawful to Serbian government. This problem must be solved to complete the deals and fully make Serbia a Union member.
It is not just important for Serbia that it joins the EU fast: also, for the EU it seems very important. The community of states invested very much capital and political influence in this region. After the collapse of Yugoslavia, the EU tried to stabilize the situation and to bring peace in the region. They also wanted to gain influence there, because that seems important for the whole continent. Today, the EU must show that it is still one of the big players, because Russia, China and Islamic States are also trying to gain influence. In times of the Brexit, the rising populism, and the strengthening right-wing parties all over Europe, it gets more important than ever to show strength and power in this region.
There are also many arguments against Serbia joining the European Union. Freedom of press and of opinions, the constitutional legality and other rights are being suppressed by the government. Corruption has been high for 150 years and there is no sense for democracy. But exactly at this point, the EU could interfere as supervisory authority. This authority could also start reducing the corruption in the country. The corruption exists because the government can act, compared to other democratic states, arbitrary. If Serbia joined the European Union, the economy and the wealth of the society would probably rise, just like the economy of Romania after it joined the EU and have a positive effect on the population. That again would have supposedly a strengthened influence on the education system, on the democracy and on the rights of the population. Another argument against the entry is that the European Union is a community of values. Even if other countries, like Poland or Bulgaria, don’t match these values, just as freedom of speech, of press, and many more, it is important to hold on these qualities – but if Serbia really wants to join EU, they will work on that.
I personally think that it is very important for the Serbian population and the European Union, that the country joins soon in the Union. Yes, there isn’t a functional constitutional state, the freedom of press and of opinion are suppressed, but also these problems could be solved in the European Union. There are other examples where not completely democratic states joined in the Union, like Bulgaria, Poland or Romania. The Union is a community of values but also a trading partnership. Serbia arrived at the point, where it can be accepted as an independent partner in many aspects. The problem with the Kosovo is less important compared to the advantages for the whole population. If Serbia joined in the European Union, they had access on structural funds and they would have the possibility to grow faster and solve many problems. It would strengthen the Serbian society, like the admission already helped Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. All these countries took profit from the entry, so will Serbia. The economy and the society of Serbia will become sustainable and stronger and because of that, basic values and the democracy will profit, because democracy cannot rise in poverty!