Serb voters back pro-EU parties as early results cement Vucic win


#1

ft.com/cms/s/0/e255f1e0-0b0c-11e6-b0f1-61f222853ff3.html#axzz46vycvzf0

**Serb voters back pro-EU parties as early results cement Vucic win

In results hailed by observers as a resounding endorsement of the EU from outside its borders, more than 85 per cent of Serbian voters in Sunday’s parliamentary elections backed pro-Europe parties, according to preliminary figures.**

The results offer a counterpoint to the stunning success of the far right in Austria’s presidential vote. More broadly, the success of pro-EU politics in Serbia stands in contrast to a wave of Eurosceptic sentiment sweeping the continent, most notably in Hungary, Poland and France.

**Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s prime minister, made winning EU membership and rooting out endemic corruption the key planks of his political programme and received a strong endorsement from voters with 48 per cent of support, according to unofficial results.

Johannes Hahn, the EU’s enlargement chief, declared himself “confident that [Mr] Vucic will use citizens’ strong support in a responsible way and that it will strengthen Serbia’s EU perspective”.**

But Mr Vucic’s electoral triumph is only partly a tale of pro-EU zeal; it also reveals the success of the populist political apparatus built by his party and conceals a resurgence of ultranationalist forces that appeal to nationalist and pro-Russian sentiment.

**More broadly, Serbia’s EU membership aspirations face challenging headwinds — and possibly dashed hopes if EU members, fatigued with the bloc’s perceived over-reach on expansion, eventually fail to offer the Balkan country entry to the club.

Serbian voters have pinned their hopes on Mr Vucic’s goal of EU membership by 2020 but the threats to this ambition may come as much from the EU’s own reluctance to expand after years of economic and political crisis as from Serbia’s delayed reforms. On Monday, Theresa May, Britain’s home secretary, listed Serbia among several countries afflicted by organised crime, corruption and terrorism.

“We have to ask ourselves, is it really right that the EU should just continue to expand, conferring upon all new member states all the rights of membership?” Ms May asked.

Although Sunday’s vote dispels fears of a lurch towards Moscow by Serbia’s politicians, many Serbians feel that EU member states have already reached a negative answer to that question. Mr Vucic’s task is to convince them entering the EU is still a realistic goal**

His renewed mandate gives him a stronger hand in tackling unpopular requirements demanded by the EU and IMF, notably dealing with losses in the country’s bloated public sector and reducing the fiscal deficit to below 4 per cent.

Mr Vucic’s far right adversaries will be more prominent in the Serbian debate. The former war crimes suspect and paramilitary leader Vojislav Seselj may now emerge as leader of the opposition if, as expected, Mr Vucic renews a coalition agreement with his current partners, the socialists.

The renewed political challenge on Mr Vucic’s right flank may polarise opinion further but it may also provide the prime minister with cover for criticism from European partners for slow progress on unpopular reforms.


#2

“We have to ask ourselves, is it really right that the EU should just continue to expand, conferring upon all new member states all the rights of membership?” Ms May asked.

Thoughts?

There is an argument that the EU needs to focus first and foremost on addressing its own internal problems with the Eurozone crisis and the Member States sovereignty, before considering further expansion. This is the viewpoint of Ms May, UK Home Secretary,

Yet if you have a country that so badly wants in, is European and has made significant market, political, legal and human rights reforms to qualify - would it be a good idea to deny it entry, when the very fact of it desiring membership demonstrates the worth of being an EU state compared with the alternative?

7.164 million people live in Serbia - 7 million + more EU citizens with freedom to work, travel, vote and do business in the single market. That’s equivalent to the state of Washington in the US, the 13th largest state out of the 50 states that make up the Union. Hardly negligible.

The deadline for Serbia to harmonise its national laws with EU requirements is sometime in 2018, I believe, so that might be the year that the EU gets its 29th member state - or 28th if Britain were to drop out before then.


#3

Oops, meant to say finalisation of talks in 2018 and accession in 2020 for Serbia :smiley:


#4

One would not think Russia would favor Serbia joining the EU.


#5

It most certainly wouldn’t and has exerted significant pressure on the country to prevent this, although thankfully falling far short of a Ukraine or Georgia style response.

That said the centre - right pro-EU party that has won retains ties with Russia including with Putin 's United Russia Party and has stressed that Serbia joining the EU will not mean it has entirely abandoned relations with its large neighbour. I suppose they must say that, whether they really believe it is a different matter.

Certainly Russia can and will exert power on the pro-Russian opposition in the parliament before 2020 to frustrate the efforts being made.


closed #6

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