Serbia and the EU
Serbia's path towards EU membership has been long and bumpy. While most communist regimes in Eastern Europe unravelled in 1989, Serbia was to remain under the firm grip of Slobodan Milosevic's regime for another 10 years. At the end of the decade – marked by war, repression and economic stagnation – Serbia was further away from the EU than at its beginning.
Even after Milosevic was finally toppled on 5 October 2000, it took nearly one more decade before Serbia formally applied for EU membership on 22 December 2009. Serbia moved much slower than many hoped or expected. It suffered major setbacks, the biggest and most shocking of which was the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on 12 March 2003. Without Djindjic's vision and his determination to implement necessary reforms, Serbia drifted under the leadership of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, whose pro-European orientation always remained in doubt. Rather than reforms, it was nationalist politics – including the struggle to stop Montenegro and Kosovo from seceding and the lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague – that dominated the political agenda. EU integration proceeded very slowly. Even when Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic finally put his signature under a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU on 29 April 2008, Kostunica argued that the agreement should be annulled and demanded that a rejection of Kosovo's independence by the EU be made a precondition. The controversy triggered early elections, from which the pro-European camp – under the leadership of Boris Tadic – emerged victorious.
Taking office in July 2008, the new government showed more dynamism and commitment than its predecessor. In January 2009 it has started to implement the interim agreement of the SAA unilaterally, with implementation from the EU's side being blocked by the Netherlands over the issue of Serbia's cooperation with the ICTY. The interim agreement was finally fully applied in December 2009. The same month, the EU decided to allow Serbian citizens – together with Macedonians and Montenegrins – to travel visa-free to the Schengen area.
However, as a result of some EU member states' reluctance towards further enlargement, the ICTY issue and Serbia's position on Kosovo, Serbia's EU membership application was left untouched for nearly a year. It was only on 25 October 2010 that the Council finally tasked the Commission to prepare an opinion on Serbia's application.