This article focuses on the public discourse about the EU accession process in Serbia as seen through the prism of symbolic geography that is historically structured by the dichotomy of Europe and the Balkans. On the basis of theoretical approaches such as mental mapping, symbolic geography, Balkanism and the concept of Euopeanness as an interplay between self-perceptions and perceptions of the so-called other, this paper tries to reconstruct the paradoxical processes of aiming to belong to the EU and neglecting this option.
During the 1990s, the liberal-democratic, EU-oriented opposition “Balkanized” the Milošević regime in order to delegitimize and ultimately to successfully overthrow it in 2000. Referring to Western European values and Europeannes as such, this new liberal-democratic government around the Democratic Party (DS) awakened expectations of Serbia’s quick EU accession, a resulting prosperity, and improved living standards. The fact that those promises did not come true delegitimized the DS, which after twelve years of ruling went into opposition. Ironically, those politicians who had been part of the Milošević regime and thus Balkanized by their EU-oriented opponents, are now in power and are, consequently, fostering Serbia’s EU integration and accession process. Those developments affirm a broad, discursively constructed commitment to Europeanness.