Friday, 2 March 2012

Serbia in the EU: diluting the Franco-German axis


Congratulations to Serbia, for today winning candidate status to join the European Union. I'm not accustomed to playing Europhile, but it is good news to see the EU resuming its eastwards expansion.

Admittedly, my  wishing them well is motivated by desire to see the Franco-German axis further diluted. The former Communist countries of Eastern Europe seldom favour Sarko's vaunted "French Model", while the UK needs all the help it can get against the usual French and German tendency to align EU policy with their own national interests.

The French claim to love Europe, but usually that's when they manage to steer Brussels into reflecting French customs. Whether or not France will drag its feet to delay Serbia joining the EU, in the way it has with Turkey, remains to be seen. Sarkozy looks like being quite positive though.

Serbia's European conversion is surprising too. Political transformation has been swift. It applied for membership to the club in December 2009, but it's still only thirteen years since, under Milošević, the country was at war with Britain, France and Germany over Kosovo. The Serbs still don't recognise Kosovo's independence though, so that's one potential sticking point.

I have insufficient knowledge of how deeply Serbia's conversion runs. They look polished and cheery enough, winning Eurovision in 2007 (photo above). They have also handed over their worst war criminals - Milošević, Karadic and Mladic - to face Hague or UN justice. That took plenty of time though, and to a cynic (okay, me) looked like a transparent gesture to curry favour for EU membership.

We know all about Greece's fiscal governance failings, which were criminally overlooked before its eurozone membership. I suspect that beneath the veneer of Serbia's shiny EU candidate portfolio, plenty of political corruption, human rights abuse and gangsterism remains.


But how much, and how high should the EU's bar be set? Whatever the Serbs' progress to date (clearly judged to be successful by Brussels) by letting them in, you could argue that they will be more likely to further improve their standards of governance retroactively.

I say let 'em in!

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