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Serbia to EU: While You Ponder Debt Crisis, What About Us?

Serbia's request for candidate membership will come up in yet another EU summit devoted to the debt crisis.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 12/8/2011, 9:03 PM

While the main matter of business for the EU summit starting Thursday is to come up with another "ultimate" plan to convince investors that the EU has the economic crisis under control, the item of Serbia's candidacy will also come up.

The Serbs believe that they have played ball with the EU on a number of issues that are not popular with broad sectors of Serb public opinion and now it is payback time.

Serbia has extradited suspected Serb war criminals to face trial in The Hague.

The Serbs  have reached an agreement with the government of Kosovo on the issue of the customs posts on the border between Serbia and Kosovo ending a standoff.

While still not recognizing Kosovo (there are EU states that do not recognize Kosovo as well),  they have refrained from violence and attempts to destabilize the regime in Pristina.

At the NATO summit,  NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared his support for Serbia's candidacy for EU membership without presuming to tell the EU how to run its business. "We are very committed to the Euro-Atlantic integration of all the countries in the region. But that requires more democratic reforms, and these reforms must become reality."

Rasmussen was seconded by Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean Asselborn who claimed that Serbia's candidacy would serve the interests of both NATO and the EU. He warned that if the door was shut in Belgrade's face there would be a resurgence of Serb nationalism

"I believe that there is no other choice here. It cannot be desired that nationalistic tendencies take the upper hand in Serbia and the conflict with Kosovo becomes much more intense."

The major opponent of Serbia within the EU is Germany. Serbia fought against Germany in both world wars (Germany quickly recognized Croatia, a move that assisted the rapid disintegration of the former Serb dominated Yugoslavia). Germany also feels that public opinion within the European Union, already laboring under the debt crisis, would resist the admission of a problematic country such as Serbia.

Precisely to counter the German opinion, Serbian President Boris Tadić wrote a piece for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in which he repeated the claim that Serbia had made "unpopular and difficult decisions" some even involving personal risk to the decision-makers. He warned.

“If Serbia is kept outside the EU, this will long be seen as evidence that the special system of values used to define Europe as a community is just an illusion of the eternal politics of the big and the small.” 

He suggested utilizing the experience of East and West Germany in the case of Kosovo. Here as well there were functional relations even though there was no mutual recognition until 1972.

Serbia is not without support in Germany as the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, a business lobby interested in promoting trade in the former communist countries, has been outspoken in its support for Serbia's candidacy.