Serbia is to submit its formal application to join the European Union today, but the largest republic of the former Yugoslavia faces a tough fight to join the 27-member bloc.
Even its own parliament is split on the issue with delaying tactics employed by nationalist MPs. Eventually Serbia’s president and prime minister were able to sign the application in the name of the government on Saturday.
But the issue of Kosovo’s unilateral independence will need resolving before Serbia can embrace European integration..
Belgrade still officially considers it as its southern province. 22 EU states recognise it as independent.
Then there is Serbia’s failure to arrest the former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic.
He is being sought for genocide by the U.N. war crimes court, but is still regarded as a Balkans war hero by some in the country.
For many in the EU the handing over of both Mladic and the former leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia, Goran Hadzic, will determine Serbia’s date for membership.
But there has been a couple of encouraging signs from Brussels – an interim trade deal was recently unblocked after reform of Serbian competition laws and as of last Friday, Serbs were granted freedom of travel without visas to most of the EU bloc.