Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Serbian Prime Minister: We will be next to join European Union

By Oliver Joy, CNN
October 3, 2013 -- Updated 1636 GMT (0036 HKT)
  • In 2012, the Serbian economy posted negative growth of 1.7%, according to Eurostat estimates
  • Serbian Prime Minister Dacic said: European Union accession is not financial aid package
  • Serbia's unemployment rate is at 25%, only Greece and Spain are higher in Europe

(CNN) -- As the European Union continues its expansion into Eastern Europe and the Balkans, Serbia's Prime Minister says he is "certain" his country will be the bloc's next member.

Ivica Dacic told CNN: "We would like Serbia to become a member of the European Union as quickly as possible."

Serbia is aiming to become the third country from former Yugoslavia to join Europe's political and economic union, following in the footsteps of Slovenia and neighbor Croatia, who joined earlier this year.

But Dacic believes Serbia does not have "a lot of time to wait" as its economy has suffered "great consequences" following the breakup of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Read more: Croatia looks to oil and gas fields in Adriatic Sea

"The rate of unemployment is the biggest problem," Dacic said, referring to Serbia's 25% unemployment rate, which sits below only Spain and Greece in the EU.

He added that "discussing economic reforms in Serbia is futile" until industrial productivity increases. Dacic also highlighted the importance of foreign investment to country's economic prospects.

Read more: Germany's modest Mutti Merkel is no Iron Lady Thatcher

"These foreign investments will not happen if Serbia is not a part of the modern world," Dacic said. Serbia's economy contracted 1.7% in 2012, according to Eurostat estimates, due to its close ties with embattled eurozone nations.

Serbia, which has a lower minimum wage than China, is also struggling to cope with an exodus of skilled workers, as the country's young leave in search of work abroad. The phenomenon has left the country heavily reliant on remittance income.

Read more: Croatia PM: We need Italy to recover

EU membership is a chance for Serbia to join the world's largest trading bloc and will offer access to funding for infrastructure projects and the country's poorer regions.

But Dacic said: "We don't see the European Union accession as a straightforward financial aid package, or that it would enable our citizens to work in other countries across Europe."

Will Croatia benefit from the EU?

Despite Serbia's ambitions, accession can be a slow process. Croatia only joined the EU as its 28th member in July after talks to join officially opened in 2005.

Mixed views on Croatia's entry into EU

Read more: Did Croatia get lucky on EU membership?

Croatia welcomes EU membership

Although the EU never gives specific time frames on accession, Dacic is confident Serbia will join Europe's exclusive club within the next 10 years.

Peter Stano, a spokesman for European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, told CNN that the speed of accession depends "solely" on Serbia.

He said: "Serbia has already met the political and economic criteria needed to become candidate status and to start the negotiations."

James Ker-Lindsay, a Balkans expert and author of 'Kosovo: The Path to Contested Statehood in the Balkans' estimates that the process will take eight to ten years.

He told CNN: "It might well be the case that Montenegro, which has already started EU accession talks, is going to be the next one to join... getting Montenegro ready for membership is likely to be easier."

Serbia also faces questions over Kosovo, after it declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize the declaration, and the European Union is trying to encourage talks between the two sides.

Dacic said: "We have always made it clear that we cannot and will not try to bring our problems to the EU with us. This is another reason why we are conducting this open dialogue in order to normalize the relationship and solve our problems before accession."

Kosovo was plunged into war in the late 1990s, pitting Kosovo Albanian insurgents against Serb security forces and Belgrade-backed Kosovo Serb paramilitaries.

William Bartlett, author of 'Europe's Troubled Region,' believes EU membership for Serbia will help ease some of the political tensions with Kosovo.

He said: "By reducing political tensions, you are reducing country risk for investors and that will have a positive knock on effect for the economy."

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
December 26, 2013 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
December 26, 2013 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
November 14, 2013 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
November 8, 2013 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1741 GMT (0141 HKT)
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.