2 March 2012

Serbia obtains EU candidate status

The European Union has now put Serbia on the path to EU membership by granting the country candidate status.

The Serbian Parliament (March 2011)
From the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia has been a member since 1 May 2004 and will be joined by Croatia on 1 July next year. Serbia joins Macedonia and Montenegro as candidate countries; or as we should say, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia due to a naming dispute with Greece. Evidence of the political fragility of the Balkans.

Serbia has a degree of anti-EU feeling within it. It is just shy of 13 years ago when NATO bombed the country during the Kosovo War and I've seen at first hand that Belgrade and Novi Sad still contain the scars. Bear in mind this involved EU members Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.

My experience of Serbian people is positive. A friendly group that looks forward and tries to show their country in a good light, some with the belief that the disintegration of Yugoslavia happened due to manipulative nationalist politicians.

I believe obtaining EU candidate status will be welcomed by most Serbians. Politically there is still some way to go. Kosovo is an obvious issue. Another possible stumbling block is in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnia is a federal country made up of one Serb entity and one Bosniak-Croat entity and political mistrust and uncertainty between them persists. The Serb part, the Repubika Srpska, may try for succession and if Serbia supports this, tacitly or officially, it may have a bearing on its own EU bid, particularly as Croatia will be a member by this time.

For these reasons, I anticipate the Serbian path to EU membership will not be one travelled quickly but, with some patience, we will welcome Serbia to the fold in good time.

It will create an interesting language situation for the EU. The Serbian language is the only European language with active digraphia (that means it uses more than one alphabet; a new word I have learnt today). It uses both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. Whilst Cyrillic is already catered for as Bulgarian is an official language, would the likes of OHIM use both alphabets for Serbian? (Latin script Serbian is almost identical to Croatian.) The Intellectual Property Office of Serbia only provides its national trade mark application form in Cyrillic. I understand this is considered a more formal alphabet, but you can correspond with them in Latin script.

With EU membership some time away for Serbia, OHIM will not be panicking on how they will be managing the Serbian language just yet.