Foreign policy and defense
Serbia is a nation in Southern Europe. Its capital city is Belgrade. Serbia has come a long way from the 1990s war and isolation from the outside world. The country has been formally an EU candidate country since 2012. But the road to membership is long and the Belgrade national government is also keenly guarding Serbia’s traditionally close relations with Russia.
In order for Serbia to become a member of the EU, a number of requirements are set, including stopping corruption and organized crime. However, the EU and Serbia agree that a Serbian EU membership does not require a Serbian recognition of Kosovo. Serbia applied for EU membership in 2009 and was granted candidate status in 2012, after some success in talks with Kosovo and since the last wanted war criminal was arrested.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Serbia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The membership negotiations with the EU began in January 2014. Formally, the goal is that Serbia, as well as Montenegro, will be able to join in 2025.
Unlike other countries in the Western Balkans, Serbia does not have the goal of joining NATO.
Good relations with Russia
With Slavic and Orthodox Christian Brotherhood Russia, relations have always been good and they were further improved when Russian friend Tomislav Nikolić became President in 2012. He has declared that an EU membership does not mean that Serbia will abandon the friendship with Russia, which has supported Serbia in the country’s resistance to Kosovo’s independence and has assisted with loans, energy and even weapons supplies. The orientation towards Russia has been further strengthened under Aleksandar Vučić, the former prime minister who succeeded Nikolić as president in 2017.
In October 2019, Serbia signed an agreement to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which consists of Russia and four other former Soviet republics. This is despite the fact that over 60 percent of Serbia’s foreign trade takes place with EU countries, compared with 7.5 percent with the EEU. As and when Serbia eventually reaches all the way to EU membership, the country must leave the EU.
Despite membership negotiations with the EU, Serbia refused to participate in the sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia in connection with the Ukraine crisis of 2014. In October of that year, Russian President Vladimir Putin was received with great military honors when he visited Belgrade in connection with the celebration of the capital’s liberation from the Nazis in 1944, in which the Soviet Red Army had a large part. The high-level contacts between Belgrade and Moscow have been numerous in recent years. Russia has occasionally been criticized for interfering in Serbia’s internal affairs.
Despite some contentious statements by both Nikolić and Vučić, Serbia says it is striving for good relations with neighboring countries, as everyone benefits from it. Nevertheless, a number of controversies have arisen with the neighbors.
With Croatia, Serbia’s relations improved in 2004, following a mutual apology for what the countries caused each other during the wars of the 1990s. In 2010, the respective presidents visited each other’s countries and the same year an agreement on defense cooperation was signed. Serbia’s then-president Boris Tadić visited the Croatian border town of Vukovar and apologized for the massacre there in 1991, when hundreds of people were killed by paramilitary Serbian forces.
Conflicts with Croatia
However, the relationship was complicated since Nikolić said in a 2012 interview that Vukovar in Croatia is a “Serbian city” and that a Greater Serbia is his unrealized dream. When the Croatian general Ante Gotovina in 2012 was acquitted of the war crimes against Serbs in Krajina he was previously convicted of aroused the upset feelings in Serbia. On the other hand, many Croats were upset when the Croatian government in 2013 decided that the Serbian minority in places that Vukovar would be allowed to use the Cyrillic alphabet, which is so closely linked to the Serbian identity. In the mid-2010s, the exact question of Vukovar continued to be a source of conflict, not least because both Serbia and Croatia had nationalist governments.
Just over a month after Serbia seized Bosnian Serb former army chief Ratko Mladić in 2011, Tadić visited Bosnia-Herzegovina and met with the Bosnian Presidential Council for talks on better relations between the countries. Serbia has also stated that it does not question the borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina (that is, it would not support the possible outbreak of the Serbian Republic, the Republic of Srpska, from Bosnia and Herzegovina). Here too Nikolić aroused strong feelings, when he said that the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica was not to be considered genocide. Precisely the question of how the events in Srebrenica are to be described has led to further inconveniences. When the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić visited the city in connection with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the massacre, he was subjected to stone throwing.
Cool towards neighbors in the south
With Macedonia (later renamed Northern Macedonia), a border agreement was already signed in 2001, but relations deteriorated temporarily when Macedonia and Montenegro jointly recognized Kosovo as their own state in the autumn of 2008. However, in the middle of the 2010s, Balkans. On the other hand, relations with Montenegro have sometimes been quite chilly due to the issue of dual citizenship for the many Serbs living in Montenegro (Montenegro has so far refused to do so). The fact that Montenegro is moving towards full membership in the Western Defense Alliance NATO also raises bad blood given NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 (see Modern History). The Serbian Orthodox Church’s strong position and actions in Montenegro have also caused controversy. In addition, the country accuses Serbia of, with Russian interference, behind an alleged coup attempt in connection with the Montenegro parliamentary elections in November 2016.
Following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, Serbia for a period put diplomatic relations on ice with the countries that recognized Kosovo. Belgrade also acted actively to persuade them to withdraw recognition and sought to influence those who have not yet recognized Kosovo to renounce. Around 100 countries had recognized Kosovo’s independence at the end of 2016.
Following a vote in the UN General Assembly at the request of Serbia, the question was raised whether it was compatible with international law by Kosovo to declare itself an independent state to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. This declared in July 2010 that Kosovo did not violate international law when the country disengaged from Serbia. The strike was a severe diplomatic hardship for Serbia but did not mean that Serbia intended to recognize Kosovo (see above).
Collaboration with NATO
The army was a cohesive force for a long time, but when the former Yugoslavia collapsed, it was also divided. Immediately after Serbia and Montenegro parted ways in 2006, the joint armed forces were also divided. In December of that year, both countries, together with Bosnia-Herzegovina, were able to join the NATO Partnership for Peace (PFF). One requirement was that Serbia modernize its forces, including reducing the size of the army and putting it completely under civilian control. In early 2015, Serbia was given a two-year so-called Individual Partnership Action Plan (Ipap), the highest level of cooperation between NATO and non-members. Since it expired, discussions have taken place about a new Ipap agreement, with no results.
However, Serbian troops have participated in various military exercises under NATO, but have also hosted Russian troops in joint exercises in Serbia. Serbia has also regularly participated in international peacekeeping operations. Since 2011, Serbia has a professional army and the general military duty has been abolished.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 13 250 men (2017)
The air Force: 5 100 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.8 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 4.2 percent (2017)