"A lot depends on EU membership," says Dr. Ker-Lindsey. "A lot of it is to do with a sense that Serbia needs to join the European Union, it comes back to a sense of wanting to be fully part of Europe again."

But as well as that political dimension, there's also a very clear economic dimension. "Serbia needs to join the European Union - it doesn't have an alternative," he says, given that it is the trend across the entire region, and that the economic situation in Serbia is "pretty dire". 

Inside the country, there are some parties which are hostile, he says, "but essentially they are very small and they've been marginalised, and all the main political parties with the exception of one in the parliament, support EU membership.

"There are some, particularly on the political right, who are opposed, but really the sense is that this is something that's got to happen. And I think the population largely goes along with this."

What are the problem areas?

Things like corruption have got to be tackled, but this is not unique to Serbia, Dr. Ker-Lindsey says - "we're seeing this across the whole region."

He believes that the judiciary and rule of law will be the first areas to be looked at carefully.

"After the Bulgarian and Romanian accession a few years back, the EU has really tightened up on making sure that countries are really ready to join, especially in the area of rule of law."

We can see what's in it for Serbia, but what's in it for Brussels?

"There isn't much enthusiasm for expansion among member states, and for a variety of reasons," he acknowledges. "Here in Britain, immigration has become a huge debate. And even though there hasn't been the flood of Bulgarians and Romanians that were predicted in the media, it's very telling that on January 1, politicans were saying, all right, well, we might not have had it from them, but what about when Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, join the EU?

"I think in Brussels there is very much a sense that EU enlargement is not a finished process by any stretch."

(VoR)