For nearly a decade following Slobodan Milosevic's ouster on 5 October 2000, the EU and the US continued to worry about political developments in Serbia. Would pro-reform and pro-European parties prevail? Or would the Serbian Radical Party – led by Vojislav Seselj, on trial for war crimes in The Hague – come to power and turn the clock back to the dark 1990s?
Parliamentary and presidential elections in 2008 seem to have provided an answer – not so much by way of the narrow victory of an alliance headed by Boris Tadic, which campaigned on a pro-European ticket, as by the breakup of the Radicals over the question of Serbia's European future. (The party's more moderate wing, headed by Tomislav Nikolic, split to establish the Serbian Progressive Party.)
With the global economic crisis and the ensuing European sovereign debt crisis, the EU's appetite for further enlargement has subsided considerably. As a result, the EU is not as accommodating today as it might have been back in 2008. In addition, some member states have become increasingly critical of Serbia's position on Kosovo and of its co-operation – or lack thereof – with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
All this has made it more difficult for the Serbian leadership to keep European integration at the top of the country's agenda. While ESI's earlier research focused on Serbian-Montenegrin relations and challenges of economic development, we now place more emphasis on monitoring Serbia's EU accession process. Accession, we believe, is the key to the country's future development.
20 April 2011