Serbs must join the EU without delay

Share

The word "revolution" is bandied about too much these days. Even William Hague wants a "Common Sense Revolution". But the term is apt for Thursday's events in Belgrade, which culminated in the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic, and his replacement by Vojislav Kostunica. When authoritarian regimes fall, they tend to do so with breathtaking speed. It happened in Bucharest, in Warsaw, in Berlin, in Prague.

The word "revolution" is bandied about too much these days. Even William Hague wants a "Common Sense Revolution". But the term is apt for Thursday's events in Belgrade, which culminated in the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic, and his replacement by Vojislav Kostunica. When authoritarian regimes fall, they tend to do so with breathtaking speed. It happened in Bucharest, in Warsaw, in Berlin, in Prague.

Now, a decade later, it has happened in Belgrade. But Serbia's problems are not over. How could they be with Milosevic still around? We should not be caught up in the euphoria of recent days and believe otherwise. One of the first difficulties is apparent in Dr Kostunica's snazzy new title: President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Like Milosevic, the new democrat's writ runs beyond the borders of Serbia and Kosovo into the increasingly unwilling partner of Montenegro, despite the fact that a majority there probably want divorce.

No nationalist president of the Serbs is going to relinquish Belgrade's interest in the region; Milosevic went to war with Nato to keep his grip on Kosovo. But with proper guarantees to the Belgrade loyalists, Montenegro should at least be offered the relative autonomy which Kosovan Albanians now boast. It is not a perfect solution - but it is probably the best we can hope for if Kostunica is to avoid further bloodshed.

But Kostunica's problems do not begin at Serbia's border. Once these initial heady days are over, he will have tremendous difficulties keeping his fractious coalition together. Kostunica's position as the sole presidential candidate against Milosevic was a necessary tactic if the opposition was to oust a ruthlessly efficient state, replete with secret police and gagged press.

Now that job is done, the egos of former opposition leaders will be hard to contain. Dr Kostunica has wisely promised fresh elections in 18 months. It must be hoped that until then, ambitions can be held in check. For there is much to do. Rebuilding Serbia into a democratic country will take time. Even after sanctions are lifted this week, the craters from Nato bombs will still scar the capital. When they have been filled, the West-as-enemy mindset which brought the bombs may linger.

And that is where we come in. After the Second World War, Germany was forced to squirm through occupation and re-education by the victors before being allowed into the fold. Nazi evils were, rightly, not forgiven, but by an effort of will they were to some extent put aside. "Don't mention the war" was more than a Fawlty Towers joke: it was a way of compartmentalising our dealings with the nation we had - justifiably - fought to the death.

But once that leap was made, via the Common Market, a democratic Germany proved itself more than capable of living up to its responsibilities. Amid all the guff and hyperbole on both sides of the single currency debate, we must not forget that this is the real triumph of the European project: to lock countries with a history of totalitarianism - from Austria to Spain, Greece to Germany - into a democratic structure, and enable them to deal with their neighbours without violence.

Membership of the European club brings great economic benefits, but imposes a democratic straitjacket on participants. It follows that EU enlargement is vital if we are to stabilise those continental countries still left out of the club.

Following the momentous events in Serbia, it is now time to extend the rights - and the obligations - of EU membership to the Balkans. To force Croatia, Bosnia and yes, even Serbia into lengthy "drying-out" periods, proving their commitment to democracy for years before welcoming them in is likely to prove counterproductive. Rather than giving Balkan democracy time to "bed in", a prolonged wait is more likely to destabilise it. The Balkan states are European. All, Serbia included, should join the EU as soon as possible.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Teacher Plymouth

£21500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Operations Data Analyst - London - up to £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Operations Data Analyst -...

Programmatic Business Development Manager

£35 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: As the Programmatic Business Develo...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is currently recruitin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: out of time, polling and immigration and old words

John Rentoul
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past