November 8, 2018 Serbia

Serbia-EU: ‘Reform Process Stalls as Kosovo Dialogue Dominates’

Belgrade hopes to progress EU membership talks but experts warn continued focus on Kosovo’s status means Serbia’s reform agenda has stagnated, or is even going backwards.

A coalition of NGOs, prEUgovor, warned that the reform process has not only stagnated in areas like the rule of law, it is actually going backwards.

Maja Zivanovic

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Austria, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency, is hosting the 9th EU-Serbia intergovernmental conference on December 10.

Despite slow progress on joining the EU so far, particularly as Serbia has been widely regarded as a frontrunner for membership, Belgrade is hoping new chapters in accession negotiations could be opened.

The Serbian Minister for European Integration, Jadranka Joksimovic, said the conference could lead to the opening of chapters 9, 17 and 18 specifically, which relate to financial services, economic and monetary policy, and statistics.

“We believe that on the basis of concrete and visible steps…when it comes to action plans and reforms in the field of the rule of law, there will be plenty of quality materials, that an important package of the chapters will be opened by the end of December,” she told the Parliamentary Board for EU integration on October 29, FoNet news agency reported.

Opening new chapters would indeed feel like progress given Serbia has so far opened 14 of 35 chapters and provisionally closed just two, which refer to science, research, education and culture, since applying for membership in December 2009.

By comparison, neighbouring Montenegro has opened 31 of 33 chapters and closed three. It applied for membership just a year earlier, in December 2008.

The key sticking point is normalising relations between Serbia and its former province Kosovo. Pristina declared independence in 2008, something Belgrade has refused to recognise. The EU launched the dialogue on Kosovo and Serbia in March 2011, aiming for full normalisation defined in a legally binding agreement.

However, the ongoing dispute has held up both countries membership negotiations for years.

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Belgrade Insight to be integrated into Balkan Insight

After a 265 issue run, Belgrade Insight, BIRN’s bi-weekly Belgrade-focused English-language newspaper, printed its last paper edition on Friday 21 December, 2018. 

In its decade-long life since 2008, Belgrade Insight sought to bring quality journalism to its readers and subscribers.

Belgrade Insight covered political and economic developments in Serbia, but also told stories about people, businesses and events which shaped a unique and multi-faceted city like Belgrade.

In addition to detailed analysis and coverage of political, economic and business affairs, Belgrade Insight provided its readers with everything that expatriates, short-term visitors and local residents need to know in order to enjoy this great city.

It the past decade, it saw many changes in Serbia’s political and cultural climate: from the deep recession of early 2010s to Serbia’s candidate status in the EU, through Belgrade’s first Eurovision song contest and re-opening of city’s museums.

Although Belgrade Insight will no longer be printed, BIRN journalists and associates will continue their coverage of Belgrade and Serbia through the Balkan Insight website.

For any questions or refunds contact Snezana Caricic (snezana.caricic@birn.eu.com)