International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Minister Miscevic-EU lacked momentum on Balkan enlargement

November 15, 2023

Serbian European Integration Minister Tanja Miscevic said that enlargement fatigue tarnished the European Union’s (EU) reputation in the Western Balkans, that Brussels’ demands for Serbia to “de facto recognize” Kosovo are exaggerated and that recognition is not the topic for the Belgrade-Pristina normalization process.

In an interview with the Brussels portal Politico Miscevic said that the EU reacted quickly on Ukraine’s prospective membership, but that EU’s “lack of momentum” on the Western Balkans tarnished the bloc’s reputation in the region.

“The EU did not react as fast as it reacted with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia two years ago, or now. They missed the same type of reaction at the beginning of this century when it comes to the Western Balkans,” Miscevic told Politico in Brussels, where she attended a meeting of EU foreign ministers and their Balkan counterparts.

Miscevic added that after the end of the Yugoslav Wars, the EU’s appetite for enlargement “was not as enthusiastic as it is now, there was no momentum … as … now created because of Ukraine primarily.”

So-called enlargement fatigue triggered a drop in pro-EU sentiment across the Western Balkans, the minister added.
Politico reported that Russia’s war against Ukraine gave new momentum to EU expansion and revived the membership bids of most Western Balkan countries, “which have been stuck in the waiting room for almost a decade,” but assessed that “there is little hope” that EU leaders will agree to push forward talks with Serbia at the summit slated for mid-December.

Serbia’s failure to sanction Russia is one of the two major issues that are blocking Serbia’s path toward EU membership, while the Minister argued that Serbia’s stance on Russia is “not ideological” but that it is “purely out of our economic interests,” as well as that Western sanctions against Belgrade during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s have “also shaped a lot of sentiment” in the country.

Miscevic explained that Serbia is trying to wean itself off Russian oil and gas by striking deals with Azerbaijan and increasing energy flows with its regional partners.

The minister stressed that Serbia shares the EU’s fundamental principles and that she “feels bothered that people are questioning the value side of Serbia” over its reluctance to sanction Russia, reported Politico.

Regarding Kosovo, the Minister said that demands from Brussels for Serbia to “de facto” recognize Kosovo’s independence are exaggerated given that five EU countries do not recognize Kosovo themselves.

“Recognition is not the topic for the normalization process between Belgrade and Pristina. If recognition was the issue, the normalization then would not happen at all,” said Miscevic.

Commenting on talks about reforms within the EU to prepare it accept new members by 2023, the Minister said candidate countries should have a greater role in shaping key reforms that will define the EU’s future structure.

“Serbia, whenever it joins the European Union, will not join the EU of today but the EU of tomorrow. So we should follow how the EU of tomorrow is supposed to be built and I am sure that there are a lot of issues that we can add to that development,” said Miscevic.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/minister-miscevic-eu-lacked-momentum-on-balkan-enlargement/

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