Europe

Serbia and the EU: Regional reaction

Serbia is poised to get EU candidate status after Romania withdrew its objections to the decision. Here people from Serbia and other countries in the region share their views on the situation.

Rajko Bogdanovic, 33, Belgrade, Serbia, IT professional

Image caption Rajko hopes candidacy status will bring new investment to Serbia

We have always seen ourselves as part of Europe, so this is just a confirmation. We are one of the oldest nations of Europe.

Joining the EU can be a chance to open up borders. When I grew up as child in the former Yugoslavia, there were no borders between our neighbours. People here really suffered over the last 20 years because we have been building walls around the country.

Serbia should become a Balkan highway. Instead of having borders and complicated customs procedures, we should have open roads.

We hope to finally see open telecommunications and roads between Macedonia and Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria, Romania and Montenegro.

What will EU membership bring to the lives of ordinary people? Not so much today as it might bring in next 10-15, or 20-30 years. We have been waiting for this moment for many years, but many have lost patience.

Some Serbs might not think much of joining EU, but if you say it is a chance to bring in new business then more people will be enthusiastic. In my industry there is less money and opportunity at the moment, I really hope that EU candidacy will help develop the economy and bring more work.

Luka Popovic, 21, Belgrade, Serbia, student

Image caption Luka says he wants Serbia to join the EU as it will force change

People here are excited about the prospect of candidacy status. They're excited that something is moving, even though support for the EU has decreased in recent years.

Right after Kosovo declared independence in 2008 we had elections and the pro-EU party won a strong victory. But everyone has become less supportive of joining the bloc since then. The main problem is Kosovo. The EU is pushing too strongly for Serbia to recognise Kosovo before we can join. Today I think most Serbs don't want this to happen. The EU should lead Serbia step by step and not force the issue.

Personally I want Serbia to join the EU because I believe it is the only way things will change for the better in the country.

It will be a good opportunity for Serbia both economically and in terms of co-operation with other countries. At the moment our relationship with neighbours like Croatia is not great.

The reforms that have to take place in order for us to get into the EU will really make a difference. The main problem here is corruption - that really has to be stamped out completely. I don't think there is any will in Serbia to undertake reforms without some sort of goal like joining the EU.

Agim Maxhera, 27, Mitrovica, Kosovo, recent graduate

Image caption Agim wants to see more EU pressure on Serbia over Kosovo

I see a huge problem with rewarding Serbia EU candidacy at this point.

The EU should have put more pressure on Serbia to first improve relations with its neighbouring countries. I fear that once it starts on the road to joining the EU it will become even stronger and will have complete disregard for its neighbours - especially for Kosovo.

I have absolutely nothing against the Serbian people, I have lot against Serbian politics.

Serbia continues to have parallel structures in Kosovo - including in my city which is ethnically divided. Through its power structures Serbia continues to have great deal of influence over Kosovo.

The EU should have pressured Serbia to take some concrete steps to address this issue.

Instead, in an agreement last week Serbia again refused to recognise Kosovo. We have been allowed to join regional meetings only with an asterisk after our name declaring our status disputed - a real step backwards from our declaration of independence in 2008.

I really do feel the EU peoples are receiving a new, dangerous candidate that will bring them a lot of problems.

Dardan, 33, Zagreb, Croatia, manager

Any step that takes Serbia closer to the EU is positive, but I'm worried that Serbia still hasn't changed.

Serbia is not really pursuing European values of regional co-operation and development.

The country invests a lot of energy into disrupting anything positive from happening in Kosovo - financing parallel structures and lobbying against Kosovo's inclusion in the international community. All of which damages any chances of economic recovery there.

Most people I know have similar views to me - we are quite disappointed with the democratisation process in Serbia over the last 10 years. Serbia has not yet faced up to its past.

I hope that the EU will put pressure on Serbia to finally recognise Kosovo and focus on development. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened so far.

As Serbia gets closer to EU membership, there should be more pressure on Serbia to change which would be good news for relations between our two countries.

But if the EU is not ready to do this, I'm a little worried that Serbia might end up joining the bloc without really changing.

More on this story