Serbia’s Quest for EU membership: A Faustian Choice?

Although both are resolutely against Kosovo’s independence, a political battle has heated up between Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and President Boris Tadic.  It boils down to this. does not want Serbia to join or even negotiate with the European Union until it has Kosovo under its control.  Tadic, on the other hand, wants to push on with European Union membership, even without Kosovo. 

What started out as a seemingly innocuous disagreement has turned into a full-fledged battle between the country’s highest government officials.  Government officials on both sides of the fence have dug in their heels behind either Kostunica or Tadic.  The official term for this is “institutional deadlock.”  The question on everyone’s mind is whether the deadlock will be allowed to continue or whether something will give, either in the form of a referendum or an early election.

Serbia’s circumstances as of late suggest that something will have to give, as such dischord within the government cannot sustain itself.  In the last two months, the Dinar has lost five percent and the index of the most active stocks is down eight percent.  Serbia, just like Kosovo, needs some serious financial investment to invigorate its fragile markets.

Will the expediency of a sagging economy trump a hardline nationalistic stance?  Will Serbia’s quest to avoid both cultural and economic isolation trump Serbia’s claim to Kosovo at all costs?  Who is truly speaking for the Serbian people, Vojislav Kostunica or Boris Tadic?

We will soon find out.

Serbia’s ruling coalition is so divided on the European Union that citizens might be asked to decide in a referendum whether the country should seek or reject EU membership, Serbia’s parliament speaker said. The prime minister does not want an EU link up without breakaway Kosovo, while the president advocates pushing on with membership.

Oliver Dulic, Serbia’s third most senior official, told daily Danas the government of nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and pro-Western president Boris Tadic would find it “impossible to survive” in such a climate of discord.  Analysts say the disharmony is deterring much-needed investment and rattling the country’s fragile markets. The dinar has lost five percent in two months and the index of most active stocks was down eight percent in the same period.

Kostunica wants Serbia to reject ties with the EU until the bloc withdraws its backing for Kosovo, Serbia’s former province which seceded last month. Tadic says these issues are not related, and nothing should jeopardise Serbia’s development. Dulic, a member of Tadic’s party, said that unless Kostunica backs down, a snap election or a referendum would be the only ways to break a possible “institutional deadlock”.

“We should go for early elections as soon as possible and let citizens decide on the future,” he said in an interview published on Wednesday. “Whether at elections or at referendum, we have to ask citizens what they think.”

Kostunica recalled ambassadors from the United States and major EU nations that recognised Kosovo and wants to cool ties as long as the EU insists on sending a supervisory mission to guide the territory to full statehood. He backs a parliamentary resolution saying Serbia cannot join the bloc without Kosovo inside its borders. Dulic said the re-election of Tadic on Feb. 3 over a nationalist challenger showed Serbs see an EU future.

After months of sitting on the sidelines while Kostunica worked up nationalist fervour, top liberals such as Dulic have started going on the offensive, especially after violent attacks against foreign embassies and firms in Belgrade late last month. The potential for crisis has not been lost on the EU. Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn called on Serbia to reaffirm it still sought closer EU ties. The bloc is due to set out plans on abolishing visas, increasing scholarships and offering more development help for all Balkan states in a bid to maintain public support.

Analysts say Kostunica is single-minded in his campaign to save territory seen by Serbs as the national heartland, and is unlikely to be swayed by Western cajoling. “Since all parties are in favour of EU membership, there is no point in organising a referendum on whether we want to join the EU,” the spokesman of Kostunica’s party, Andreja Mladenovic, told Beta news agency on Wednesday.

“We should rather have a vote on the issue of whether Serbia should go into the EU with Kosovo or without.”

The quoted article was published by The Guardian and can be found here.


3 thoughts on “Serbia’s Quest for EU membership: A Faustian Choice?

  1. Who is truly speaking for the Serbian people, Vojislav Kostunica or Boris Tadic?

    The answer is Tomislav Nikolic.

  2. Dear Mr. R,

    Thanks for your comments. I chose not to include his name because I put Nikolic under the Kostunica umbrella for the sake of a simple generalization.

    But, on second thought, I should have included him. Although he lost to Tadic in the runoff, his ideas still strike a chord with a large percentage of the Serbian population. Obviously, you are proof positive of that fact.

    Mr. Cheeseburger 9000

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