Serbia officially became a candidate for the EU membership. The corresponding decision was made at the meeting of foreign ministers of 27 countries participating in the EU. Now the question is whether Serbia joins the ranks with the European Union, and what will happen to Kosovo, whose independence was recognized by the majority of the EU members.
A positive decision on granting Serbia the status of a candidate was announced by the French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. He noted that currently the Balkan country has fulfilled all necessary conditions. The final decision will be made in the next few days, when the Heads of State and Government gather in Brussels. However, until now there has not been a case when the decision of foreign ministers was cancelled. This means that the government of Serbia has nothing to fear.
Sitting Serbian President Boris Tadic has been conducting negotiations on the accession to the EU for eight years. He was able to abolish the visa regime for Serbian citizens, but was not as successful in terms of politics. The leading EU countries were among the first to recognize the independence of Kosovo and directly linked the European future of Serbia with an official agreement on the rejection of the region. The question of granting a candidate status to Serbia has been postponed because of the reluctance of the Serbian leadership to engage in a dialogue with the leaders of Kosovo.
President Tadic, however, did not battle for too long. On February 24 representatives from Serbia and the Albanian authorities of the area have signed a special agreement on the status of Kosovo. According to the document, Belgrade does not recognize its independence, but Kosovo is granted the right to participate in regional organizations in the Balkans. In addition, the Serbian and Kosovar police officers will work together to guard the border. De facto, this meant that Serbia has taken another step towards the recognition of Kosovo for the approximation of its European future.
The supreme EU Commissioner for External and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said after signing the document that with regard to Serbia, the agreements on regional cooperation and integrated management of border crossings are particularly welcome in view of the discussion in the Council (EU) next week on the status of a candidate for Serbia. She added that the EU is working to identify the way to accept Kosovo as a member as well.
Tadic also welcomed the signing of the agreement. He said that signing of the agreement is a proof that his policy "both Europe and Kosovo" supported by the citizens of Serbia has stood the historic test and proved that this approach is the only realistic one and brings results. This policy provides the European future for Serbia, protects its national interest and shows that Serbia is a factor of stability in Southeastern Europe, he stated.
Tadic also spoke about the provision of an observer status to his country. He said that Serbia's strategic goal is to become a member of the European Union because the country shares the same values and views with the EU. According to him, the country is doing everything possible to heal the wounds of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. "It's not easy, but we promise to continue to move in the same direction," said Tadic.
On her part, Catherine Ashton had a very peculiar response. She welcomed the positive role in resolving the consequences of the conflict in Kosovo played by Tadic and Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci suspected of organ trafficking, whom Serbia put on the wanted list 15 years ago. Ashton also noted that the European Commission is making a decision on closer ties with the EU of not only Serbia, but also Kosovo.
Meanwhile, not everyone in Serbia is happy about the fact that their county has virtually agreed to an independent participation of Kosovo in the international organizations for the sake of the European future. The oppositional Serbian Radical Party (SRP) has called the incident "treason." Deputy chairman Dragan Todorovic said about the signed agreement with Kosovo that this was one of the most shameful days in the history of Serbia, and it will be inscribed there in black letters.
What are the benefits for Serbia in joining the EU? Will it result in the final loss of Kosovo? Historians Elena Guskova and Sergei Romanenko shared their thoughts in an interview with "Pravda.Ru".
Elena Guskova, an expert of the Hague Tribunal, the head of the Center for Contemporary Balkan Crisis at the Institute for Slavic and Balkan Academy of Sciences:
"It is clear that for the sake of joining the European Union Tadic is ready to give up Kosovo. Recently in Belgrade the documents of WikiLeaks became publicly known, and they suggest that the President agreed to the surrender of Kosovo back in 2006. He was just looking for a favorable form of the surrender that his country could accept. Reaching an agreement with the Albanian authorities of the area is consistent with his policy. This is also true for Tadic's behavior during the recent events in northern Kosovo, where local Serbs have never received his support.
Tadic's actions were largely connected with the desire to bring the country into the EU. However, Serbia will never become the EU member. The process will drag on, Brussels will impose new requirements. Along with Kosovo the Serbians will be reminded about the Hungarians in Vojvodina, the Slavic Muslims in Sandzak, and the Albanians of the Presevo Valley. There is Hungarian separatism in Vojvodina. Lately, there proved to be Serbian separatism there as well."
Sergei Romanenko, senior fellow at the Center for Political Studies at the Institute of Economics:
"Obtaining the official candidate status for EU membership by Serbia is quite logical. The policy of Belgrade, the actions of Brussels and the development of the Balkan region as a whole were moving in this direction. Strategically, the admission to the EU for Serbia has more pros than cons. Serbs in general feel that they are Europeans. Of course, there are anti-European forces, but they are in the minority.
In addition, jealousy of the neighbors is obvious in the Balkans. If Croatia has already been adopted by the EU and NATO, the Serbs want the same thing. The Serbs do not want their country to be a "gray spot" on the map of the Balkans. At the same time, negotiations for admission to the EU for Serbia will be difficult. Croatia has been knocking on the doors of the EU for eight years. Bulgaria and Romania were accepted in a rush, which proved to be good neither for the EU nor for Bulgaria or Romania.
The Kosovo issue will be gradually solved within the EU. Of course, Belgrade will not recognize Kosovo's independence any time soon. Today, however, Serbia does not have resources to fight for it. The country has been through too much turmoil since 1991, and will not be able to survive a new war. And if does survive, what would it win? Perhaps, the solution of the Kosovo issue will take more than a decade similar to the issue of the South Kuriles. But some decision will be made by the European Union."