The Delegation of the European Commission in Belgrade was established in 1981 in the then Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), following the signature of cooperation agreements between the SFRY and the then European Economic Community (EEC). In December 2009, the Delegation changed its name to “Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia” in line with the entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
This change also reflects the increased political role of our office in accordance with political and economic development of EU-Serbia relations in recent years.
In October 2000, Serbia took decisive steps to end its political and economic isolation and embark on the road of European integration, previously taken by the whole of Central and Eastern Europe and its neighbours in the Western Balkans.
Over the last 16 years, the pace of European integration process in Serbia has varied. As of 2001, Serbia has put a lot of effort to join its neighbours in implementing reforms ranging from economy and judiciary to military and media. The talks were virtually suspended in May 2006, following the assessment which showed that Serbia’s cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague was not sufficient. In 2007, the newly created pro-reform government took credible measures to invigorate the cooperation with the Tribunal which allowed the European Commission to reopen the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiations.
At the end of 2009, in less than a month, two very important events took place; firstly, the visa liberalisation regime in December 2009, which allowed Serbian citizens to travel within the Schengen area without visas and showed that the process can deliver concrete results of direct benefit to citizens; and secondly, just a couple of days later, President Tadic submitted Serbia’s EU membership application to the Swedish presidency. In 2010, our primary objective was to maintain the momentum which we had built up thus far. In February 2010, the Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related matters entered into force, while in June, the decision was made to unfreeze the SAA, putting Serbia back on track towards EU membership.
In October 2011, the European Commission made a recommendation to grant Serbia EU candidate country status, followed by the confirmation of the status on 1 March 2012. In April 2013, Brussels negotiations on the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina got off the ground. In June 2013, the European Council adopted the European Commission recommendation to open EU accession negotiations with Serbia.
EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in September 2013 and at the end of the same year, in December, the European Council adopted the negotiation framework with Serbia and agrees to hold the First Intergovernmental Conference with Serbia in January 2014.
The Second Intergovernmental Conference between the European Union and Serbia, held in January 2015, saw the opening of the first two out of 35 negotiating chapters. Negotiations were opened on Chapter 32, dealing with financial control and Chapter 35 (other issues).
This latest step shows that we are moving to an important new phase in EU-Serbia relations – the process of negotiations on chapters which moves Serbia closer to full-fledged EU membership.