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Serbia-EU pact could backfire

Latest update : 2008-04-29

Serbia has signed a pact that could be an initial step to membership of the European Union, but it could create a backlash in the upcoming Serbian election. Analysis from FRANCE 24’s Armen Georgian. (Report: S. Silke)


The European Union on Tuesday signed a “Stabilisation and Association Agreement” (SAA) with Serbia - a first small step on a very long road to EU membership.


The agreement commits Serbia to political, economic and judicial reforms. In return, Brussels will offer financial and technical help to get Belgrade on track for EU candidate status - but not immediately. The SAA will not come into force until Serbia arrests fugitive war crimes suspects. Belgium and the Netherlands have been particularly active in linking Belgrade’s European fortunes to the capture of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, who is wanted on genocide charges. Final approval of the SAA could be on hold for some time.


Further complicating progress are political developments in Serbia itself. According to a recent opinion poll, the nationalists are several percentage points ahead of the pro-European party of President Boris Tadic in campaigning for parliamentary elections being held May 11. With the vote just two weeks away, Brussels hopes the SAA will give Tadic’s party a boost.


This strategy might backfire. It could allow the nationalists to suggest that Tadic is playing into the hands of the same Europeans who recognized Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in February. They could thus portray Tadic as being weak on Kosovo, a central issue in the Serbian campaign. Whatever the risks involved, the EU seems willing to try everything to prevent the nationalists from winning. A nationalist coalition after May 11 could well put Serbia’s EU aspirations into the fridge, if not the freezer.

Date created : 2008-04-29