Relations of Serbia and the European Union: Between accession and unfinished integration

Duško Lopandić ORCID logo

Published on 8 September 2023

ABSTRACT: The paper offers an overview and analysis of the relations between Serbia and the European Union in recent decades. It aims to assess the extent to which the process of accession to the EU has been realized and the prospects of the negotiations on Serbia’s accession to the EU. The first part brings a periodization of Serbia’s cooperation with the EU in this century. The second part includes the main aspects of the association, as a legal, economic and political basis in the ongoing relations between the EU and Serbia. The third part offers a more detailed presentation of the negotiation process on Serbia’s accession to the Union. In the conclusion, the prospects of Serbia’s integration into the EU are discussed in the light of geopolitical changes in Europe after the breakout of the war in Ukraine. Although there is no doubt that some progress has been made after two decades of close cooperation between Serbia and the European Union, it is not enough for us to talk about the full “Europeanization” of Serbian society, politics, state administration and economy. The trade and economic effects of the SAA are positive, but Serbia has yet to achieve a high enough rate of economic growth to reach the average development level in the EU. In addition, the Serbian government pursues a balancing policy in geopolitical and international relations, which contradicts its proclaimed strategic goal of joining the EU. The normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština remains of the main stumbling block in the evolution of internal and international policies in Serbia. The combination of neglecting internal reforms by the authoritarian regime in Belgrade and the objective prolongation of the process of enlargement negotiations by the European Union (which have no clear terminus or deadline) makes it seem that there is a blockade on Serbia’s European path. The internal political and institutional evolution of the European Union itself in the coming years will have a significant impact on the future of Serbia’s integration.

KEY WORDS: European Union, foreign policy of Serbia, accession negotiations, EU enlargement