On Failed Policies: The EU’s Serbia “Triumph”

The news that Serbia is now officially in membership talks with the European Union (EU) has largely been presented as the triumphant last steps of the country’s transformation from international pariah to emerging democracy. Among EU officials, eager to present existing conditionality and membership policies as a means to pacification and democratization, Serbia will in many regards be the ultimate success story. The reality, however, remains more complex. The current government is composed of a colourful cast of former war crimes enthusiasts and spokespeople. Domestically, lasting authoritarian tendencies, deeply embedded in state institutions, have contributed to an on-going culture of political purges and serious concerns about minority rights. Moreover, the idea that a country where the police are still used to harass and silence reporters, in their own homes no less, is on the doorstep of EU membership reads like something of a perverse joke. And yet one cannot entirely be surprised. After all, the EU happily absorbed still-divided Cyprus a decade ago, with the promise of European integration preceding Cypriot reform. Given a lack of concrete commitments, that thaw, unsurprisingly, never truly materialized. In Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), the EU continues to display an entrenched unwillingness to enforce the decision of the European Court of Human Rights or any semblance of basic European norms of human and democratic rights, a policy that has left the country teetering on failed sate status. Meanwhile, a new law set to further cement ethnic partition and thus war-time expulsion(s) and killings threatens to disenfranchise a further 70,000 BiH citizens. This, of course, primarily at the behest of the Dodik regime in BiH, itself engaged in a long-standing campaign of intimidation against activists and journalists, of whom Belgrade remains the primary benefactor. The idea that EU membership can substitute for substantive institutional and policy reforms ought to have been put to rest years ago and yet precisely this bankrupt idea persists. A Europe that does not stand for genuine democratic reforms, human rights, inclusion and accountability only persists in continuing the failures of policy makers of generations prior. However, this “no policy” regime as I have called it elsewhere appears to be precisely the approach preferred by Brussels. The results we can expect then will likewise be sadly familiar. Jasmin Mujanović | @JasminMuj