EU accession and Balkan pitfalls
There is a clear desire for Serbian accession to the European Union in the EU itself and among a majority of Serbia's parliament. The outgoing EU foreign affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, underlined that on a visit to Belgrade earlier this year. "We want to see you get closer to the EU," he said. "But that is in your hands and the hands of your political leaders." The country faces two key challenges before EU accession is feasible. These pose two characteristically Balkan questions – how to balance the desire for national sovereignty with the need to mollify foreign great powers, and where to draw the borders.
The first issue is the extradition of war criminals to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. The EU wants Serbia to fulfil the court's demand that it hand over Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, and four other generals accused of war crimes in Kosovo.
Serbia claims that Mladic was last seen in the country in 2001; the ICTY chief prosecutor says he is still there.
The ICTY is very unpopular in Serbia.