The critical tones of the european commission report make it unlikely that Serbia’s EU accession process will speed up substantially, though that represents a requirement for its successful completion by the end of the decade
This year’s European Commission report on Serbia can be considered as the most critical report in recent years. It assesses that Serbia has made only minimal progress when it comes to its readiness for EU membership and is particularly critical regarding the rule of law and the state of democracy, both of which are fundamental requirements for EU accession. These assessments do not come as a surprise, as there is now a broad consensus among researchers and international observers that democracy has deteriorated in Serbia over previous years. The June 2020 elections were especially criticised by the OSCE/ODIHR, Serbian civil society and the European Commission report itself.
The report comes after a period of Serbia’s very slow progress towards EU membership, precisely because of member states’ concern about the rule of law. Serbia opened only four chapters in the previous two years and didn’t open a single one in 2020. The overall result of 18 out of 35 chapters opened and only two closed is a poor result for a country that has declared EU membership as being its strategic goal.
There needs to be political will to strengthen democratic institutions, the rule of law and media freedom, as the most important factors determining the prospects of eu membership
The critical tones of the European Commission report make it unlikely that Serbia’s EU accession process will speed up substantially, though that represents a requirement for its successful completion by the end of the decade. Moreover, considering the positions of certain member states, it wouldn’t be unexpected to see Serbia fail to open any new chapters in 2020. The new enlargement methodology, adopted in March 2020, places an even greater emphasis on the rule of law and democratic institutions, precisely the areas where Serbia faces the greatest problems.
If Serbia aspires to achieve EU membership by 2025, as was envisaged in the European Commission’s 2018 Western Balkans Strategy, or by the end of the decade, as now seems more realistic, it needs to do much better. Most importantly, there needs to be political will to strengthen democratic institutions, the rule of law and media freedom, as the most important factors determining the prospects of EU membership. Other reforms also have to be accelerated substantially, with their timely implementation assured. Serbia certainly remains the key country in the Western Balkans, but it may well lose its “frontrunner” status. North Macedonia and Albania both expect to begin accession negotiations in the coming months, while Montenegro could make progress with the new government in position. Unless things improve drastically, Serbia could find itself ranked last among the four candidate countries.