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Ignoring Serbia

Berlin – Just before Christmas, Serbia’s government formally submitted its application for European Union membership. A few days earlier, visa requirements for the country’s citizens were lifted, together with those for citizens of Montenegro and Macedonia. The exultation about this step was great in all three of these countries; their expectations of the EU are even greater now.

Reactions in Europe, by contrast, were meager or non-existent. Public sentiment towards EU enlargement is negative. In fact, a majority of states and citizens would prefer to stop enlargement – the most important and effective means by which Europe is capable of projecting power – once and for all. Anonymous senior diplomats in Brussels were quoted as regarding Serbia’s application to be too early; otherwise, an embarrassing silence prevailed.

Exhausted by the frustrating climate negotiations in Copenhagen, European leaders seemed not to be in the mood for questions about EU enlargement. Indeed, given the domestic political mood in the 27 member states, they are deeply convinced that discussing further enlargement would win them no bouquets.

As a result, a subjective twilight is lowering over the European project. That is tragic, because many unique and even historic opportunities are not being seized. Serbia’s application for accession is precisely such an opportunity.