At a summit in Brussels, EU leaders finally granted Serbia “candidate status” after long ostracizing it for its role in the 1990s Balkans war. The Eurozone unemployment rate has also risen to 10.7%, the highest thus far in 14 years. The inflation rate, on the other hand, has risen to 2.7% from 2.6% in January.
Serbia is now a candidate to join the EU
Last Thursday, the EU granted Serbia a candidate for membership after it applied for candidacy in 2009. The EU’s decision was largely based on the progress made by the country towards apprehending accused war criminals and mending its ties with Kosovo, which parted from Serbia in 2008 after the third Balkans War. Serbia has long been considered responsible for much of the conflict which took place in the Balkans in the 1990s.
EU leaders hope that their latest move will continue to encourage reform in Serbia, which is still struggling with the after-effects of the war that resulted in the disintegration of the region and the slowing of its economy and political system. The decision also carried through because EU diplomats were afraid that further delays could drive Serbia to form even closer ties with Russia, a goal which the nationalist opposition has been pushing for.
In recent years, Serbia has stepped up cooperation on tracking down war crime suspects. Two important war criminals were finally arrested and brought to a UN tribunal in The Hague last year. In addition, the previous month saw Serbia signing an agreement that aims to facilitate its engagement with Kosovo, which Belgrade has long since refused to recognize as an independent state.
Still, even with candidate status, Serbia might have to wait for several years before being recognized as an EU member. Negotiations for membership with the European Commission are likely to take place a year from now depending on Serbia’s progress, and will probably stretch out over a long period of time. Croatia, the latest country to be bestowed membership from the EU, held negotiations with the commission for approximately six years.
Report: Serbia, once outcast, is candidate to join EU [New York Times, 1 March 2012]
Report: EU leaders grant Serbia candidate status [BBC, 1 March 2012]
Update on Europe’s economy
The eurozone’s unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 10.7% in January, according to the Eurostat data agency. It was 10.6% last December and 10% a year earlier.
Quite surprisingly, the current unemployment rate is higher than the unemployment rate following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which only peaked at 10.2%. Greece, following its debt crisis, has the highest unemployment rate of 23.3% while Spain follows behind at 19.9%. Moreover, the jobless rate for the second half of 2011 was recently revised to be higher than previously thought.
Inflation rate in the Eurozone rose from 2.6% in January to 2.7% in January, while reports also show that the Eurozone economy shrank during the fourth quarter of 2011, contracting for the first time since the second quarter of 2009.
Report: Eurozone unemployment rate at 10.7% [CNN, 1 March 2012]
Report: EU inflation rises, output drops [China Daily, 2 March 2012]