Serbia’s European Perspective developing – energy deal with Russia signed

December 25, 2008

On Spring 2008 Serbia signed two strategic agreement. The one was a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with European Union and the second one was a preliminary energy deal with Russia. The first is since then suspended but the second one got some flesh on the bones on Xmas-week. Both deals are implementing Serbia’s European perspective although from different angels.

Pipes are comingSAA paperwork

SAA could be described as a roadmap guiding Serbia’s way into EU. When implementation really starts it means starting long negotiations where some 80.000 pages of EU regulations are applied to Serbia’s legislation. During the process and especially afterwards with membership the carrots include e.g. access to EU’s structural funds and different (~500) development programmes. With these promises or visions EU is using its sc. “soft power” to integrate the key player of West Balkans under the influence of EU.

More about SAA & Serbia e.g. my articles “Montenegro and Serbia on the way to EU – maybe”  and “Two approaches from Balkans towards Europe”  and my Serbia’s NPI & SAA documents in my Document library

Serbia will come to an energy hub of West Balkans

Xmas eve Russian and Serbian Presidents and related companies from both sides signed an umbrella agreement including three parts:

  • Under the contract for the sale of NIS, Gazprom will purchase a 51 percent stake in the company for EUR 400mn, and invest a further EUR 547mn in restructuring. The contract, adopted during a government conference call, states that the buyer will secure a loan of EUR 500mn, repayable over 14 years, in order to implement the investment.
  • Second part includes construction the underground gas storage facility in Banatski Dvor that would be able to hold 300 to 800 million cubic metres of gas.
  • Thirdly the Presidents signed an umbrella agreement providing political guarantees that Serbia will receive a stretch of the €10 billion South Stream gas pipeline project is planned to distribute gas from Russia through Serbia and Bulgaria, branching out finally to Western European countries.

Sure NIS was sold under today’s market prices.  However if the two other parts of deal will be implemented the deal will be win-win both to Russia and Serbia.

NIS would also provide Gazprom’s first refineries outside of Serbia. With a network of about 500 gas stations allocated in Serbia (including Kosovo), as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, Serbia’s oil monopoly is strategically significant in the supply of neighbouring regions as well. Also when South Stream is completed and fully operational (est. 2015), the pipeline would make Serbia an energy hub in the region.

More over global energy game in my article “Powerplay behind the new Cold War”.


While EU has used its “soft power” and promises to Serbia Russia has used hard currency. In regards of Serbia’s European Perspective this does not necessary mean any swift from pro-Western to pro-Eastern side. From my point of view the situation and its prospected development will allow to Serbia a more balanced approach to its future. While energy will be on the top of EU’s priorities Serbia will have same time more leverage with its negotiations over SAA and other relations with the EU.

Montenegro and Serbia on the way to EU – maybe

December 17, 2008

Montenegro’s Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has left Monday 15th Dec. 2008 for Paris to submit the country’s formal application for European Union membership to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Same time Holland is still blocking implementation of suspended Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) agreement Serbia regardless of an   essentially positive report on Belgrade’s cooperation with ICTY as well almost fulfilled conditions for candidate status.

The government of Montenegro decided on previous Thursday 11th Dec. to officially submit the bid to France, current holder of the EU presidency. “By taking this step, Montenegro commits itself to the accession process and the building of a united Europe which is a strategic goal in which the founders of the European Community invested their vision and commitment,” the government press office said in a statement. ( 15.12.2008)

Serbia progressing

On 5 November 2008 the Commission adopted its annual strategy document explaining its policy on EU enlargement.  Same date EU released also the 2008 progress reports,  where the Commission services monitor and assess the achievements of each of the candidate and potential candidates over the last year.  As earlier Serbia’s administrative capacity can again match EU’s administrative challenges. (More, check also “Serbia’s National Programme for Integration of Serbia into EU from my Document library)

Few days ago a EU document   “Guaranteeing Security in a Changing World” says Serbia is close to fulfilling all conditions for establishing close relations with the EU. (Beta 12.12.2008)

…but blocked

Same time Holland will not change its position when it comes to Serbia’s EU integration. Holland sees Mladi?’s arrest and extradition as the best proof of cooperation.  Serbia and EU signed late April 2008 the temporary trade agreement which is part of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA)  and suspended immediately, pending Belgrade’s full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. (B92 13.12.2008)

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told Tanjug news agency in an interview published 14th Nov. 2008 that EU candidate status and liberalization of the visa regime remain Serbia’s absolute foreign policy priority for 2009.  He added that the issue of Kosovo and EU integrations are separate processes, but repeated that should the two overlap, Serbia would choose to preserve her territorial integrity. (B92 14.12.2008)

4500 questions

The EU discussion in Serbia has been concentrated to question when Mr.Mladic will be delivered to Hague.  This is only one side-path of EU integration.  The road to membership is much more complicated both Montenegro and Serbia.

For example when a country wants to gain membership status the European Commission will at that point respond by sending a questionnaire to potential candidate countries, which includes some 4,500 question dealing with all institutions and sectors. Based on the answers, the European Commission will report on the situation in the country which has applied.  And then are starting negotiations where some 80.000 pages of EU regulations are applied to candidate country’s legislation.

Conditions, criteria, politics

I have no doubt that both Montenegro and Serbia can and will give satisfactory answers to EC questionnaire and have good ability to fulfill (pre) conditions.  Both countries have so good administrative capacity that they can match all criteria needed for membership.

EC can be also freeze the process if there is some unfinished border dispute with candidate country.  Montenegro’s way with towards EU seems clear but it is hard to believe that Serbia and EC will soon agree which are the borders of Serbia – are they including Kosovo or not?

After all the refined negotiation process however the climax will be political one – EU can take new members with any criteria and lower standards like it was case with Bulgaria and Romania.

Any alternatives?

The membership in EU should not be overestimated – non membership does not mean to be outside Europe.  Norway, Russia, young Caucasian republics all have achieved pragmatic relationship with EU without membership.  The new Eastern Partnership (EaP) program has recently been distributed to European capitals.  The new “belt of EU friends” at Russia’s eastern and southern borders would include Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Belarus. The European Neighborhood Policy, which the EU has pursued since 2004, is going to be replaced with the Eastern Partnership (EaP).

Similar arrangements one may wait from EU with Turkey in near future, EU-Mediterranean dimension is on the way, new negotiations with Russia are starting about future programs.  EU can be very creative finding out different forms for cooperation when needed.

From my point of view also Serbia should think if joining to EU is worth of time, money and bureaucracy it demands.  Visa arrangements, free trade and some EU programs are possible also for non-members.   Of course Serbia can develop its administration and legislation according EU standards but not because of fulfilling EU needs.  The primus motor should be the needs of  the beneficiaries aka Serbs not EU elite in Brussels.

The will and ability

Totally outside of framework described above is the question if EU has the will and ability to absorb new members and if yes which members.  Lisbon Treaty is still uncertain; some EU countries want strong federation some are satisfied to loose Union.  The big wannabees – Ukraine and Turkey – EU hardly could absorb due the budget limitations and due the power shift the new members could make.

As said earlier Montenegro probably can go the whole way to EU without any bigger problems but Serbia will be fighting long with EU’s – public or hidden – political conditions.  So my modest hope is that Serbia rethinks its priorities, makes new SWOT analysis according today’s situation,   makes a vision where the country wants be after 5-10-25 years, creates strategy, alliances and action plans to realize the vision – be it outside or inside EU is only secondary question.

Serbia´s National Programme for Integration of Serbia into EU

June 18, 2008

An outstanding document named as “National Programme for Integration of Serbia into EU” has been published on Serbain government´s web-site (see the link at my document library). This massive work – total 817 pages – outlines activities which Serbia is planning to undertake in all sectors of it society politics and law in order meet challenge/goal to integrate EU.

Serbia (then Yugoslavia) started its EU integration with Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) in November 2000 and Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) was signed April 2008. Parallel to the SAA negotiations Serbia started its National Strategy for the whole process of European integration with goal to reach membership status by 2012. If/when Serbia gets status of an EU membersip canditate the mentioned National Programme is coming one of the key documents of the government for future. It serves as reform guide, base of Government´s anual work plans etc. but most of all well prepared and detailed information on planned reforms not for European Commission/EU but for the Serbian society.

National Programme structures constitute six basic chapters:
1. Political criteria
2. Economic criteria
3. Ability to assume obligations resulting from membership
4. Administrative and judicial capacities
5. Preparation of the national version of acquis
6. Financial requirements and budget funds.

All chapters are describing legal and institutional framework, present situation and especially the planned actions for future and needed resources to implement them. One could forecast, that this document will be one of the most important policy programmes for policy makers in Serbia but more important is that actions through it will have effect to all citizens in Serbia – not only at state level but on the countrary at local level both in public administration, services and private sector development, NGOs and individual citizens.