This Wednesday, students following the Danube pathway of UCL’s Global Citizenship Project attended a lecture by Filipa Figueira on The EU and its Policy towards the Danube: the Danube Strategy. This seemed especially topical following the news on Tuesday that 84% of the House of Commons had voted for David Cameron’s proposal to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in 2017. Many of the arguments for and against EU membership relate to the issues that we have been discussing surrounding the idea of global citizenship. As our group has been studying Serbia, I was interested in finding out why Serbia has not yet joined the EU and whether this was something that the country was looking to do.
What is the EU?
The European Union is a partnership of 28 European countries. Currently, these are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
The EU began in 1958, in the aftermath of World War II, as the “European Economic Community” as a way of encouraging economic cooperation between the countries of Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Since then, more and more countries have joined and the organisation has moved on from merely dealing with economic issues – today it deals with a much wider range of policy areas including human rights, the environment and development aid. The EU operates an internal market, meaning that goods, services, capital and people are able to move freely between member states. This means that a citizen from any EU member state has the right to move to and work in any other member state. The emotive issue of immigration has become the driving force behind many of the arguments for leaving the EU, as some argue that the inclusion of poorer countries as EU members has led to an influx of low-skilled workers that the country cannot cope with.
How do countries join?
The process of joining the EU is known as accession. Any country wishing to join the EU must meet the accession criteria by conforming to EU standards and laws, as well as proving that it has a stable economy. In addition to this, all EU governments must agree in order for a country to begin formal negotiations towards joining the EU.
Serbia and the EU
Serbia is currently an official candidate for EU membership. This means that Serbia is in the process of integrating EU laws into national law. The official negotiations for Serbia’s accession began in January 2014, after Serbia made a landmark deal with Kosovo in June 2013 to normalise ties between the two countries. According to the BBC News website, however, Serbia is unlikely to become an EU member until at least 2020.