Zagreb signs European Union accession treaty, but membership withheld from Serbia pending further changes.
The European Union might be facing challenges to its very existence, but Serbia will be sticking to its longheld aspiration for membership in the bloc.
Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian foreign minister, told Al Jazeera that the benefits of being part of an integrated Europe still outweigh the negatives.
EU welcomed Croatia as its future 28th member at a summit on Tuesday, while Serbia was told it would have to wait.
One of the sticking points is its troubled relationship with Kosovo.
In Jeremic’s view, the primary reason behind the EU delaying his country’s membership candidature was the current economic crisis hitting the bloc.
“Croatia went through all the important decision-making processes prior to this crisis,” he said in an interviewing during a visit to Doha.
“The rest of the Western Balkans – Serbia, Bosnia and others – are facing a steeper task. But it’s not the end of the world,” he said.
““If the crisis goes on in Europe, I think there’s going to be fundamental repercussions for the whole world.“
– Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s foreign minister
Despite the hefty challenges ahead, both for his own country in the accession process and for the concept of an integrated Europe, Jeremic said EU membership remains something his country aspires to.
“What is truly in the interests, in my view, of all countries that share a geographical space, to harmonise rules and regulations, so that they’re fully in line with each other,” he said.
While the economic advantages are less evident at a time when economies in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland are flailing, Jeremic said the most important advantage of an integrated Europe was reconciliation, and avoiding conflict in the future.
“It has worked very well for the member states of the European Union, given the history of Europe,” he said. “It’s absolutely impossible to imagine conflict in Europe right now.”
“One has to be alert, one has to follow very carefully and act so that one minimises the possibility of a conflict,” Jeremic said. “If the crisis goes on in Europe, I think there’s going to be fundamental repercussions for the whole world.”
The Serbian government’s desire to persist with the European project has come under attack from opposition groups.
But for Jeremic, Serbians need only look to history to understand the importance of keeping its eyes fixed on the prize of EU membership.
While most Europeans of the current generation have never experienced armed conflict, for the people of Balkans such memories are still fresh. The brutal wars of the early 1990s, Europe’s most devastating conflict in recent decades, were triggered partly by the dramatic transformations across the rest of the region.