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Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo
Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo
Table of Contents
  1. Overview

Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo

Since the fall of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, the steady normalisation of Serbia's relations with the international community has significantly enhanced the prospects for long-term peace and stability. The European Union (EU) rose to the challenge, providing resources for reconstruction and reforms in Serbia itself, as well as in Montenegro and Kosovo.

I. Overview

Since the fall of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, the steady normalisation of Serbia's relations with the international community has significantly enhanced the prospects for long-term peace and stability. The European Union (EU) rose to the challenge, providing resources for reconstruction and reforms in Serbia itself, as well as in Montenegro and Kosovo.[fn]With the adoption of a new Constitutional Charter in February 2003, Serbia and Montenegro redefined their relationship as a loose State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, replacing the former, defunct Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Kosovo remains legally a part of this state, as successor to the FRY, although under UN supervision.Hide Footnote As part of this assistance effort, it included the three entities in the Stabilisation and Association process (SAp) that it established to build security in the Western Balkans and open perspectives for eventual membership.[fn]The Western Balkan countries covered by the SAp are, in addition to Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Albania.Hide Footnote

As far as Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo are concerned, however, Thessaloniki is likely to produce only limited results and not advance long-term stability unless it is harnessed to a clear political agenda to resolve outstanding post-conflict issues and set all three entities firmly on the path of EU integration. For this to happen, the EU must address the status of Kosovo without too much delay. It already plays the key role in promoting the province’s economic development, through both the resources it devotes and its leadership of the economic pillar of the UN administration. Amid widespread calls for it to take on an even greater role, it cannot afford to endanger its substantial political and financial investment because of unreadiness to tackle the underlying causes of instability. The EU should also be ready to help Serbia and Montenegro resolve their relationship in a mutually acceptable way, so that both republics can finally move past the endless debates over statehood that have dominated political life since Milosevic's fall.

In this briefing paper, our basic conclusions with regard to the EU and the SAp are:

  • The EU should maintain its assistance at levels commensurate with the seriousness of the challenges facing Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo provided that they achieve clear, realistic benchmarks along a roadmap whose destination is EU membership.
     
  • The SAp should be adjusted so as to address the specific circumstances in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo more flexibly, in particular through creative use of the new European Partnerships which will be drawn up with each country.

With regard to Kosovo,

  • The EU should prepare to address the issue of Kosovo’s final status, first of all by reaching a common understanding among its member states on their goals.
     
  • Using the European Agency for Reconstruction and in direct liaison with the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, the EU should develop an integrated approach to delivering targeted assistance, establishing benchmarks and assessing progress on carrying out reforms in line with EU standards.

Belgrade/Podgorica/Pristina/Brussels, 20 June 2003

Serbia's Changing Political Landscape

On 11 July 2004, Boris Tadic was inaugurated as Serbia's first president since December 2002. Voters chose Tadic in the second round of the election, on 27 June, by a vote of 53 per cent over the ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Tadic's victory suggests that a slim majority of the electorate wants to see Serbia on a pro-European reform course.

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I. Overview

On 11 July 2004, Boris Tadic was inaugurated as Serbia's first president since December 2002. Voters chose Tadic in the second round of the election, on 27 June, by a vote of 53 per cent over the ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS).[fn]In the first round, 47.7 per cent of the electorate voted and 48.7 per cent in the second round. Three previous elections (29 September and 13 October 2002, 8 December 2002, and 16 November 2003) were annulled due to insufficient voter turnout. Subsequent changes in the election law removed the requirement for a 50 per cent voter turnout and made it possible for this election to succeed.Hide Footnote  Tadic's victory suggests that a slim majority of the electorate wants to see Serbia on a pro-European reform course. However, the Radicals' strong showing demonstrates that Serbia's electorate is deeply divided, and a pro-reform course should not be taken for granted, particularly if economic difficulties continue. Most importantly, the top three vote-getters in the first round of the presidential election came from parties that were not part of the government and did not support it in parliament.

Since the election, Tadic has indicated that he will support the government of Premier Vojislav Kostunica, thereby reducing the influence of the Socialist Party (SPS). However, the office of president holds little authority over day-to-day policy-making, and Tadic's election may not necessarily translate into real change for Serbian politics. The election leaves Serbia's minority government highly vulnerable to pressure from the nationalist right as well as the pro-European centre. Upcoming country-wide municipal elections and provincial elections in Vojvodina -- both scheduled for September -- will be seen by the government as a crucial test for possible early parliamentary elections.

Despite Tadic's election, the Serbian government appears reluctant to restart cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [ICTY]). Rhetoric and ever-increasing international pressure aside, it is uncertain if anyone sought by the ICTY will be arrested or transferred prior to the September elections. Reform legislation has stalled, and relations with minorities in the ethnically mixed Vojvodina province have worsened noticeably and could be subject to further deterioration.

In this presidential election, Serbia's electorate demonstrated increased sophistication and signalled that it is no longer obsessed with the politics of nationalism. The economy dominated the election debate -- neither Kosovo nor the ICTY played a significant part in the campaign rhetoric. Both the first and second rounds of the election signalled broad disenchantment with the transition process and with politics as usual. But the emergence of a new face from the oligarchy -- one-time Milosevic crony Bogoljub Karic -- as an increasingly powerful political force sends a powerful message to Belgrade's self-absorbed political elites of possible populist trends in the future.

Belgrade/Brussels, 22 July 2004