Serbia: integration into the European Union remains a strategic priority

The USA Ambassador Christopher Hill told reporters that Serbia is going to become a member of the European Union in the foreseeable future. High-ranking European Union officials say it will happen around 2030. However, the fundamental condition for Serbian integration into the European Union is implementing the remaining European reforms and establishing relations with Kosovo. 

Serbia and EU accession

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The USA backs Serbia’s membership in the EU

At the end of January, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill said the United States supported Serbia’s intention to normalize relations with an independent Kosovo and join the European Union.

As we know, the official Pristina has also applied to join the European Union. However, without resolving its territorial claims, Serbia will not be able to get a final positive answer from all power structures in the European Union. Until good-neighborly relations are established, the two countries will never be allowed to become members of the European Union.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has acknowledged this fact. He told journalists that without considering a Western plan for normalizing relations with Kosovo, Serbia could lose the chance of EU integration and even receive disapproval from many Western countries, with all the corresponding consequences.

Another stumbling block is the issue of Serbia joining the western sanctions against Russia. President Vucic believes that his country will have to make tough decisions on this issue by the end of this year. He fears Serbia may lose its economic and political prospects without EU membership.

Vucic admitted that his Western colleagues had made him understand: should the international plan for normalization of relations with Kosovo get rejected, Serbia would take heavy economic and political losses. Therefore, his team is working on further negotiations to achieve a compromise. The USA Ambassador Christopher Hill quoted President Vucic’s recent statement, in which he made it clear to all his partners that Serbia could not see its future without EU membership.

The more Serbia leans toward the West and strives to join the EU, the more investments will come from the United States. According to Christopher Hill, the United States has invested $4.5 billion in Serbia. Trade between the two countries is also on the rise. Official Belgrade exports a lot of goods to the USA.

Hill expressed support for the Open Balkans regional integration initiative. In his opinion, foreign corporations study any country before locating their production facilities there to check that there are no barriers to entering the markets of the neighboring countries. In this connection, the United States welcomes the Open Balkans initiative.

The desire of the current Serbian authorities to achieve accession to the European Union shortly must lead to a stricter immigration policy against citizens of its eastern neighbours. There is already talk about the termination of the visa-free regime with Belarus. Therefore, if you wish to apply for a residence permit in Serbia in order to purchase real estate or open a business, now may be the best time before the immigration rules become tighter. These steps may secure your citizenship in the European Union in the foreseeable future.

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International Plan for the Normalization of Relations between Serbia and Kosovo

Earlier this year, the Belgrade newspaper Danas published the initiative “On Normalization of Relations” proposed by France and Germany in 2022. According to this document, Serbia is not obliged to formally recognize the independence of Kosovo. However, it will have to stop blocking the participation of official Pristina in any international organizations. In addition, the two parties will be obliged to open representative offices in each other’s territory. In the future, all outstanding issues between Kosovo and Serbia will have to be resolved.

Also, the plan obliges Pristina to create associations of semi-autonomous municipalities, where the majority of population are Serbs. We may recall that this step was envisaged in the agreement of 2013.

To date, among all the Western Balkan countries, only Croatia and Slovenia have become full members of the European Union. Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia have received official candidate status for EU membership. Kosovo applied for membership late last year, while Bosnia has only announced its intentions to join the EU.

According to the Beta News Agency, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said the final agreement between Serbia and Kosovo “will bring tangible benefits to both parties”.

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Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić considers European integration a strategic priority for her country 

In late February, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić attended the conference “European Integration and Prospects for the Western Balkans, Transatlantic Cooperation and Civil Society.” She said that the main strategic priorities of Serbia’s foreign policy are rapprochement with the EU and cooperation with all the countries in the region. Brnabic pointed out that by the end of 2022, European companies had offered jobs to more than 280,000 Serbs.

Although some EU members have expressed concerns and criticism of the new EU accessions, the European Union generally continues supporting the prospect of expanding into the Western Balkans. The reforms carried out in Serbia, prescribed by the European Commission, are not aimed only at developing the Serbian economy; they are supposed to help the country strengthen the rule of law, ensure human rights protection, combat corruption and organized crime, reform the judicial system, and so on.

Ana Brnabic believes that her country is getting stronger and better every day on its way to European integration. Serbian authorities, she believes, should not be guided by the EU accession deadline but should aim their work at improving the welfare of their citizens.

The EU orientation is not just an idea. Today, 65% of Serbian exports go to EU countries. Since 2000, 70 percent of Serbia’s FDI inflows have gone to the EU.

Important to note is that in early March, US Ambassador Christopher Hill told journalists that sooner or later, once all the necessary requirements are fulfilled, Serbia will become a member of the European Union.

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