What with everything that is happening at the moment (the Border-Crosser drafts neutrally), you might imagine that Serbia would be feeling less than enamoured with the European Union and all its constituent parts at the moment. And in general, you would be right. Lots of bellicose noise is coming out of Prime Minister Kostunica and company, and there are threats of refusing to work with the EU at all.
Any yet, next week will see a cross-border conference in the middle of Belgrade, organised by the Serbian government, celebrating the Neighbourhood Programmes (“Serbia’s Success Stories”) and looking forward to the new cross-border programmes for 2007-2013. So what’s going on?
In all probability, a number of things. Firstly, a majority of Serbs realise that they do need to keep working with Europe and that they do need to get on with their neighbours, regardless of their disagreements over the future of Kosovo. Secondly, the EU considers that engagement with Serbia remains vital for the region as a whole, and all good news stories must be encouraged (see the EU’s latest Western Balkans Communication from 5 March: ec.europa.eu/enlargement/balkans_communication/index_en.htm); and thirdly, there is a key team of Serbian officials who have been driving the cross-border agenda forward in recent years since they have recognised the potential and added value of this co-operation for their country.
This group of people have a difficult task in the current climate. I wish them well.