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

Published time: July 22, 2011 15:22
Edited time: July 22, 2011 22:55

Serbia has extradited 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.

On Friday, Serbian Justice Minister Snezana Malovic said she signed an extradition order for Hadzic and revealed he had been flown to the Netherlands. He will now be tried in The Hague by the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for crimes he allegedly committed in the early 1990s.

The move brings Belgrade a step closer to the EU membership it seeks. However, in the light of the poor  economic situation in some European states, many Serbs doubt that their country needs to join the bloc.
Laura Haydon

“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?

Serbia will have to swallow its pride and recognize Kosovo if it is to gain entry to the EU believes Serbian-Canadian film-maker Boris Malagurski. 

“They (the Serb leadership) will recognize Kosovo. This is the unwritten pre-requisite for joining the EU. And even though it hasn’t been said directly by the EU’s leaders, it has been said by lower ranking-officials, most recently from Germany," Boris Malagurski said.

“The Tadic government has already done a lot in the direction of recognizing Kosovo. They’ve recognized documents from the so-called self-proclaimed independent republic of Kosovo. I think the recognition of Kosovo will come as the next step and sadly the people in Serbia think they are powerless to stop that,” he added.