Serbs question “fugitives-for-membership” deal with EU

Serbia is extraditing its last war-crimes suspect Goran Hadzic. The move should fulfill the final conditions needed to open membership talks with the EU. However, some experts view the process of joining the EU as a never-ending saga.

And in the light of a bad economic situation in some European states, many Serbs doubt that their country needs to join the bloc.

“The government keeps fulfilling new demands that are coming from Brussels, but people are not feeling any benefits from it. They’re actually feeling that things are getting worse. So as a result, support for the EU is dropping. There is a growing gap between the voters and the government in that sense, and it will probably continue to grow,” says Belgrade-based political analyst Aleksandar Pavic.

An official government poll just out shows support for EU membership among Serbs at its lowest ever at 53 percent in favor – down from over 70 percent eight years ago.

No surprise, perhaps, when the EU itself is mired in financial crisis, that more people in Serbia no longer believe that membership is going to be the answer to all their problems.

“Many have relatives abroad and are getting the truth about what things are like out there in the Promised Land. Besides, the disorder in Greece and its causes and implications could not be successfully concealed or shunned by even the most skillful propagandists,” says Stephen Karganovic from the Srebrenica Historical Project.

There is also disillusionment in Serbia over the government’s apparent willingness to bend over backwards to EU demands.

“Serbia will get in return what it usually gets in return – nothing whatsoever. I mean Serbia has many, many more hoops to jump over before it can get anywhere close to EU membership,”
believes Balkans expert Marko Gasic.

So what could be next on the EU’s list? Well, another major sticking point is thought to be Serbia’s failure to recognize breakaway Kosovo. Belgrade vows that will never happen, despite many member states pushing for exactly that.

President Tadic insists that Serbia’s moral and legal obligations have now been fulfilled.

“The song has remained the same, as Led Zeppelin says. It hasn’t changed. It didn’t change after the Mladic arrest, it didn’t change after the Hadzic arrest,” says Aleksandar Pavic.

The arrest of Goran Hadzic certainly marks the removal of a major obstacle for Serbia on its road to joining the EU, but it seems there is still a long way to go yet. Serbia feels it has kept its part of the deal – will the EU keep theirs?

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