There are many challenges for Serbia to speed up its EU integration, given that standards are high and it’s more difficult to enter the EU today than it was during previous rounds of enlargement.
The EU has gradually come to understand how challenging some parts of the enlargement requirements are for Serbia, and indeed all (potential) candidate countries in the region. Some challenges linked to developments are only partly in the hands of the Government of Serbia, such as the comprehensive normalisation of relations with Kosovo, or an improved track record regarding the rule of law (where an independent judiciary can be reformed to some extent by new laws and regulations, but developing a new “culture” of the rule of law takes time, as a consequence of legal and institutional reforms). Enlargement will thus take several more years, and this process cannot be sped up easily.
I certainly hope that Serbia’s recent tendency to backslide on relevant international indices, e.g. on the rule of law, governance and media freedom, will be reversed.
The EU – including Sweden – is here to support Serbia in this process. However, a lot can be, and is being, achieved while Serbia waits to be ready for the ultimate prize of accession to the Union. Infrastructure is steadily improving, and is funded by the EU to a large degree. Serbia’s economic progress is bound to continue regardless of EU membership, albeit at a slower pace than would have been the case had laws and institutions worked better in areas such as, for example, real estate registration and public procurement, which are areas where Sweden has provided substantial bilateral technical assistance over the last 20 years. We shall continue supporting Serbia’s reforms bilaterally, with some 12 million euros a year until at least 2027, and the EU (to which Sweden is a net contributor) will of course provide much more.