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In the former Yugoslavia, there used to be a joke about how to tell the difference between a Serbian and a Croatian girl. If you tell Croatian girl she is pretty, she smiles. If you say the same to a Serbian girl, she scowls.
Well, in 2013, smiling Croatia joined the European Union. In the same year, scowling Serbia, after much heavy diplomacy and a traumatic change of national policy, managed to became a valid candidate for a membership process that will have Serbia in the EU probably by 2020. The two girls, the scowling and the smiling one, will finally belong to the same political arrangement again, just like they both used to belong to Yugoslavia, before they ruined it. Nowadays they are divided by a heavy border, even though the rest of the world can’t possibly tell these two girls apart unless they offer them a compliment.
When dropping by smiling Croatia and scowling Serbia, one notices similar changes in their ways of life: the roads are better, there is more order in public spaces, buildings have facelifts and paint-jobs, and the restaurants serve nicer food. But when speaking to the Balkan locals, those in the EU or out of it, one hears about the darker side of EU integration: less local power, less money, less identity.
Serbia these days has truly weird, ecstatic politics. The current Prime Minister belongs to the party of Slobodan Milosevic, the deceased malefactor who brought war to the Balkans in the 1990s. Despite that, there’s serious talk that he might get the Nobel Peace Prize together with the Albanian leader because of the Kossovo negotiations. He remarked with startling frankness: I made that war, so I am the one entitled to sign a peace treaty.