Friday, March 2, 2012

Serbia becomes newest EU candidate

The EU has named Serbia its most recent candidate for membership, France24 reports. In a summit in Brussels on March 2, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy called the step "a remarkable achievement." 

Now will come the real work, according to many observers, which will involve stubborn disagreements on the country's relationship with Kosovo, and over lingering feelings from the international community toward Serbia. The new candidate was largely seen as a pariah state, responsible for much of the bloodshed in the Balkan region throughout the 1990s.

“The EU is gradually dismantling the Balkans-shaped bomb lying right next to it,” said Daniel Korski, a senior-level analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London.

Now for a tone change: check out my story on a day spent in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, published this week on the travel website Here's an excerpt:

"Petar poured juice into two green glasses and sat down across from me on the couch. I worked up the nerve to ask him about the wars of the 1990s, whether Serbia’s bloody past was having any bearing on his life now.

“It has a daily effect,” Petar said. “I still think about it all the time. Everyone does. Time has passed, my generation is now working and starting families, but it’s part of our lives, as if it were still happening. Now, for example, when I have money, I ask myself, ‘Should I buy groceries? Should I save it? Or can I buy this television, this computer program, get my car fixed?’ This type of thinking comes from war.”
He said it made no sense to brood over the past. “Sadness turns to anger,” he continued, “and anger ruins your life.”
I couldn’t believe his candor, his eloquence. I wanted to express my gratitude but just then his cell phone beeped. It was a text message from his girlfriend. “She wants to meet you,” he said. “I have an idea.”
Petar told me to shower and take some medicine for my stomach. In the meanwhile he made sandwiches. He called his girlfriend back and made arrangements for us to pick her up.
Before we headed out the door, he turned to me. “One other thing about the future,” he said, “about this after-war life we’re living here. We Serbians, we have this crazy will, this crazy will, and when we want to do something, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is we do it. Look at Novak Djokovic.”
“The tennis player?”
“Twenty-one years old and top three in the world,” he said. “No fancy facilities, no amazing coach, just that crazy Serbian will. Know that. That’s Serbia too.”

Did you like this story? Hate it? Let me know in the comments section. Watch this space for more excerpts from this story and others.