Three days before Croatia joins the European Union, the European Commission has confirmed that Serbia will begin membership talks, perhaps by the end of this year.
After a long debate over whether the Balkans should join all at once, or in tandem, the EU appears to be operating on a purely country-by-country basis out of necessity. Each country brings with it individual problems relating to trade, borders and justice.
Nonetheless, the recent agreement between Serbia and Kosovo on local governance is historic. Many predicted that the election of Tomislav Nikolic just over a year ago would be the undoing of Serbia’s EU ambitions. On the contrary, the supposed hardliner has made great strides since assuming the office and is being rewarded for this.
Little over a month ago, a Serbian diplomat told an audience at Oxford University that although popular support for EU membership had hit a low of 46%, the reforms required by the EU were supported by 70% of the electorate. Thus, the EU hopes that it can still act as a transformative power, even while undergoing a period of introspection as it tries to resolve the Euro crisis.
Kosovo will begin talks on an Association Agreement, a process which will require it to adopt the bulk of the EU standards but leaves the trickiest reforms for the prospect of membership, which must remain some way off.