On Thursday, Serbia finally received the status of a candidate for membership in the EU.
By Bojana Milovanovic and Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European times in Belgrade and Bucharest -- 03/03/12
The EU flag was raised outside of Serbia's parliament after the country was given the green light for Union candidacy. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]
After four years of waiting, Serbia's EU candidacy was approved this week.
State officials, headed by President Boris Tadic, are unanimous in the assessment that the candidate status is a chance for a better life of Serbian citizens, bigger investments, the creation of new jobs and a better standard of living.
But economic analyst Miroslav Zdravkovic thinks such expectations are unrealistic, given that all of Europe is struggling with economic problems.
"EU countries are seeing a decline in industrial production -- the situation is again approaching those disastrous indicators from the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. That is why it is unrealistic to expect investments and new jobs in Serbia,"Zdravkovic, one of the analysts of the web portal Makroekonomija, told SETimes. "I haven't noticed that the citizens see any particular gain, I haven't noticed any joy or smiling faces since Serbia's becoming a candidate."
Many bloggers believe the candidacy is positive.
"With this kind of success, I do not fear the future of my Serbia," says user spagettini on the B92 website.
Vrki thinks Serbia has finally been given something it earned a long time ago.
"Bravo. Now, Serbia, be smart and look to the future. The next step is a date for the beginning of talks, and until then and for that many more issues have to be resolved. The judiciary, corruption, unemployment… Let's start with the elections, to see who and how, and then take it from there."
Denis, however, notes how long the process from candidacy to full membership is, and said that other countries in the region have gone further in European integration than Serbia.
"Yes, let's celebrate the candidacy as a great success, given that Croatia became a member before we were even granted candidate status, that Montenegro has a date for the start of negotiations, not to mention Romania, Bulgaria."
Despite the positive outcome, the approval process was not smooth for the country.
In December 2011, Germany blocked Serbia's candidacy due to reservations it had over the country's relations with Kosovo. And early last week, the bid was nearly derailed by Romania's complaint about the treatment of a group of ethnic Romanians.
The move came as a shock. Romania did not raise the Vlach issue in previous discussions of EU's candidacy.
After quick negotiations, Serbian and Romanian officials reached an agreement concerning the minority, which was sufficient for Bucharest to withdraw its conditions for Belgrade.
Romanian bloggers look behind the whole dispute and try to give some answers.
"Are the minorities' right an internal problem of Romania or is a European problem?" Laura Cernahoschi asks.
"Until now, and especially until joining EU, we have been told it is a European problem and Romania has gone further than any other country in the region in observing the minorities' rights," she added.
"I am sure Romania's initial refusal is strictly related to Schengen and the problem is just a pretext even if Serbs are not so mad about observing minorities' rights," Lazy said.
Momo disagrees with the country's surprise move.
"From the Westerners' perspective, the Romanian diplomacy has mocked their enormous efforts to stabilise a region facing a real civil war danger for the sake of some frivolities like Latin/Cyrillic writing for a minority that is not that thrilled to be called Romanian, but rather Vlachs. Romania could have found time for the Romanian/Vlachs minorities after Serbia joins the EU," he wrote.