Serbia vote shows citizens back EU integration

20/03/2014

The results of the snap elections show that Serbia's citizens want EU membership, experts say.

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 20/03/14

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Serb voters overwhelmingly supported the Progressive party in Sunday's (March 16th) vote. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]

The landslide victory of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in the snap elections show that the country is not only ready to continue on its path the EU, but also that citizens dismiss any opposition to the country's European future, experts and analysts said.

The SNS, which places European integration, economic reforms and the fight against corruption and crime at the centre of its platform, will be able to form a government on its own after winning an estimated 50 percent of the March 16th vote, or 158 of the total 250 seats in parliament.

None of the parties opposed to European integration managed to pass the 5 percent election threshold.

In his first public address after the announcement of the election results, Aleksandar Vucic, who will most likely be the new prime minister, said the state would continue its path to the EU and carry out numerous economic reforms.

"We have difficult reforms ahead of us," Vucic said. "Serbia has a future in which its children will live far better than they do today. It will not be easy to reach that goal, but the citizens have recognised a great opportunity for us to be more responsible, to work harder and to act differently."

Maja Bobic, secretary general of the European Movement in Serbia, told SETimes that the SNS now has the capacity to implement the necessary reforms for European integration on its own.

"That should create a stable framework for the European integration process, but it will also be a test for the new government, which will have to include many other social actors into a job that is essentially the government's job," Bobic said.

The new cabinet will not change the outgoing administration's positions on key political issues, such as Kosovo and the EU, Dejan Vuk Stankovic, a professor at the University of Belgrade, told SETimes.

"That includes the implementation of the Brussels agreement with Kosovo and the continuation of European integration, which will now depend on the capacity of the political elite and society on the whole to reform themselves as efficiently as possible," Stankovic said.

The party's victory also shows that citizens have made it clear who the dominant political force is, and who is responsible for the work that has been done, he said.

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"The new government will be compact and enjoy the population's absolute support, as shown by the elections, hence it has more responsibility for undertaking reforms," Sasa Djogovic, an Institute for Market Research associate, told SETimes.

However, Predrag Simic, a Belgrade Faculty of Political Sciences professor, told SETimes that Serbia's prospects not hinge only on the new cabinet, but also on events in the world.

"External circumstances will have a crucial impact on Serbia's European integration," Simic said. "Foremost, what is happening between the EU and Russia in Crimea. That could provide a certain incentive and suppress the effect of EU enlargement fatigue, but I think in the end the deciding factor will be the caution of European voters, especially in Germany and other countries, as far as Serbia's admission is concerned."

What does the future hold for Serbia’s path to the EU? Tell us what you think below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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