In April 2005, the EU Council of Ministers gave the green light to the Study of Feasibility of Negotiations for the Agreement on Stabilisation and Association with the state union of Serbia & Montenegro. In mid-June 2005, the EU Council approved the schedule of such negotiations, which should begin on 5 October, on the 5th anniversary of democratic changes in Serbia.
In the nineteen-nineties, the getting closer to the European Union was largely an academic topic for Serbia & Montenegro or to be more precise, for the then existing Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, or that topic was used to political and/or propaganda ends. In reality, instead of rapprochement, sanctions that varied by kind, scope, intensity and duration were in force. The halfway reforms and occasional thawing of relations were being held up again and again, because of wars in the neighbourhood, internal tensions, undemocratic acts of the establishment or non-performance of duties to the Hague Tribunal. The peak was reached when the European EU and NATO members took sides with the USA and engaged in a military aggression and bombing because of the state of affairs in Kosovo.
Be it as it may, Serbia spent a whole decade in isolation and conflicts and from the leading republic of the former SFR of Yugoslavia, in terms of resources and reforms in some areas (privatisation, for example), it fell to the bottom of the list of countries in transition, according to the majority of indicators of development and by the majority of standards valid nowadays.
With the fall of the previous regime in October 2005 and election of the new Serbian Government, political and institutional conditions were created for a complete about turn in the relations with the European Union. Already in late 2000, the EU granted an emergency aid amounting to about US$ 200 million, which was followed by continuous political dialogues and continuous provision of aid, which is going to reach about € 2.5 thousand million by 2006.
The notorious development and internal quarrels and tensions in Serbia, unsettled relations with Montenegro, bad inheritance in Kosovo and persistent reluctance to perform the assumed duties to the Hague Tribunal resulted in disruptions in the conduct of reforms and sluggish progress towards association with the European Union.
The key political decision was taken at the EU Summit in Salonica in June 2003, when the document about European partnership with the Western Balkan countries was presented. That was followed by the Joint Declaration on Political Dialogue between the European Union and Serbia & Montenegro of September 2003. However, the slowdown in the harmonisation of the economic systems of Serbia and Montenegro that occurred in 2003 and 2004 resulted also in a slowdown of the whole process of association with the European Union. In September 2004, the EU took the political decision for that process to run on two tracks (the “twin track” approach), so that based on the so-called Upgraded Continuous Dialogue, as the next phase of these relations, it was also decided soon after that to have the Feasibility Study completed by March 2005. Its acceptance meant the formalisation of the procedure and start up of negotiations with the EU for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
Both Serbia and Montenegro and the authorities of the state union have formed a special Ministry (in Montenegro) and offices as working bodies and negotiating teams on all levels. The parliaments have adopted appropriate resolutions/declarations and also other decisions have been taken towards speeding up and making an organised approach to the preparations for negotiations. Serbia has also adopted the National Strategy for Association of Serbia & Montenegro with the European Union in June 2005, and its counterpart is under preparation in Montenegro.
Here is a summarised chronology of the political relations between Serbia & Montenegro and the European Union before and after October 2000, as well as an account of the institutional, organisational and other measures applied in the both member states separately, as well as on the Serbia & Montenegro level.
ILE KOVAČEVIĆ, Editor-in-Chief, Survey S&M editors
Reviewed by: Dr TANJA MIŠČEVIĆ, Professor of the Belgrade Faculty of Political Sciences and Secretary of the Republic of Serbia Government Office for Association with the EU
Translated by: Milutin Dovijanić