Serbia has formally applied for European Union membership. The move comes a decade after the end of the Balkan wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia, isolating Serbia from mainstream Europe.
Yet Belgrade knows the accession process will take years more. Negotiations can only begin after all the EU members have accepted the applicant country as a candidate.
President Boris Tadic submitted the document to outgoing EU presidency Sweden. Tadic said: “Today is a historic day for my country, Serbia. We are now in the tenth year of democratic life. In these ten years, our main goal has been to bring Serbia into the EU. But this goal was not just an exercise in symbolism.”
Earlier this month, the EU lifted visa requirements for Serbs to travel in the Schengen countries. Ordinary people say the government deserves credit for its efforts.
This pensioner said: “It was high time they made the application — a good thing. They’ve done a lot to get this far. Now the question is how many more obstacles lie between us and the final goal.”
Serbia’s path to EU membership has been stalled because of its failure to arrest war crimes indictees. Recent cooperation progress saw Belgrade clinch only an interim trade deal with the EU. The time it takes to apply the reforms required of any aspiring EU member mean Serbia could expect to join the bloc some time between 2014 and 2018.