By Biljana Pekusic
The Serbian public is eagerly awaiting Friday’s (December 9th) meeting of the EU heads of state and governments, which will decide whether Serbia is offered candidacy for Union membership.
At the EU Council of Ministers session held in Brussels on Monday, the ministers did not decide on Serbia’s candidacy, leaving the decision until Friday.
The ministers concluded Serbia made considerable progress in fulfilling political and economic criteria, and advanced dialogue with Kosovo. By arresting fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, they said, Serbia also satisfactorily completed co-operation with The Hague tribunal. The ministers also considered the ECˈs earlier favourable recommendation to grant Serbia candidate status.
In response to the outcome of that meeting, President Boris Tadic said much more can be done, and informed the media that EU — most notably German — officials gave him many signals and messages, but did not specify their content.
Addressing the issue of Serb barricades in northern Kosovo, Tadic reiterated the need to stop the spiral of violence and create a policy of peace.
“We know [about] the Balkan war coming unexpectedly overnight and we are solely responsible to prevent it in the future,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic said that despite good intentions, there is no room for great optimism Friday.
“Serbia deserves candidate status, but there are indications we will be given conditions which are not given to any other country and ones for which we are not ready,” Djelic told SETimes.
The nationalist-right opposition parties, opposed to Serbia’s EU accession and normalisation of relations with Kosovo, say that by conditioning Serbia’s candidacy, Brussels completes the independence of Kosovo.
“Serbia can develop by itself without the EU, and the problem of Kosovo should have been retained within the competence of the UN Security Council and let future generations solve it,” former Prime Minister and Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) President Vojislav Kostunica said.
“The government is cheating its own people for a meaningless candidacy of which we will have no benefit, while it is waiving away the highest national interest — Serbian Kosovo and Metohia,” another opposition leader, Serbian Radical Party Vice President Dragan Todorovic, told SETimes.
Citizens’ expectations differ as to what the EU leaders’ decision will be.
“I wish with all my heart for us to get candidacy because it would mean that Serbia joins a developed, democratic and solidarity-minded EU, the most modern society of today,” architecture student Marijana Andric told SETimes.
Many of Belgrade’s elderly share her opinion and say candidacy would spell the end of the uncertainty that Serbia would otherwise experience for years to come.
“I have three grandchildren and when they grow up, I want them to learn only from history about the problem of Serbia and Kosovo, to live safely as their peers in Europe, without fear of conflict and war,” retired professor Gordan Djurdjevic told SETimes.
Many, however, say the EU has been trying to blackmail Serbia for ten years and political demands would continue even after potentially obtaining candidacy.
“If you fulfill all [conditions] regarding Kosovo, Vojvodina and Sandzak will immediately come next, and if at some point we do enter the EU, only Belgrade and the surrounding areas will remain in Serbia,” Belgrade trader Velimir Radanovic told SETimes.
Despite the uncertainty, analysts stress it is very important that Austria’s proposal for “conditional candidacy” was not among the December 5th conclusions of the EU Council of Ministers.
“The Council gave a positive signal to Serbia that candidacy is possible, depending on what else is achieved by December 9th in talks with Pristina, and also what kind of situation Belgrade establishes in the north of Kosovo,” University of Belgrade Political Science Professor Predrag Simic told SETimes.
European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia Jelko Kacin told SETimes it would have been better had Belgrade taken action earlier, instead of waiting until the last minute. “[Nevertheless], conditions have been created for December 9th to change the opinion of countries which believe Serbia does not deserve candidate status.”