Serbia is still not making any steps forward as far as European integration goes, as the European Union (EU) has decided not to open a single negotiating cluster for Serbia in this half-year term. Belgrade says it’s neither surprised nor disappointed, because together with the refusal came an offer to have another intergovernmental conference with the Union – a consolation prize and a sign that the refusal might not be absolute.
Yet the accession negotiations have been deadlocked, some would say completely halted even. Serbia has made very little progress in the accession process over the past two and a half years, opening two out of 35 chapters, both back in 2019. Last year Serbia didn’t open any, nor has it been any more successful in the first half of 2021. At this point the EU has opened 18 chapters for Serbia, and two out of 35 are preliminary closed. The process started in January 2014, and opening a mere half of the accession chapters in seven years is a very bad result, reflecting Serbia’s very slow pace on its path to EU membership.
The authorities in Belgrade have accepted a new enlargement method, introduced at the initiative of France. The chapters of the acquis are grouped into six clusters, each entailing separate negotiations. When the new rules were inaugurated, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at a meeting with his French counterpart in July 2020 that Serbia had decided to accept them as “more favorable and better targeted for Serbia.”
Yet Serbia has missed the first opportunity to use them. The plan was for the Union to open two negotiation clusters - number three, Competitiveness and Inclusive Growth, and number four, Green Agenda and Sustainable Connectivity, following a recommendation by the European Commission. The members of the Union in charge of the enlargement issues remained divided though, a majority refusing to give Serbia a green light to open the two clusters. A group of EU states led by Germany was against it, and the other, including France, favored the opening.