Croatia and Albania joined NATO on April 1st, causing Belgrade analysts to worry that Serbia's geostrategic position in the Balkans is eroding.
"Serbia has begun losing its leading position in the region with the admission of Croatia and Albania to NATO," analyst Aleksandar Radic said. "Croatia had the ambition of becoming a regional force, and it is now slowly implementing that plan, while Serbia remains a captive of history," Radic said.
The situation becomes even more complex for Serbia with Macedonia knocking on NATO's door and Bosnia and Herzegovina boasting of good co-operation with the Alliance through the Partnership for Peace (PfP). Serbia became a PfP member in 2006.
Just a day after NATO accepted new members from the Balkans, Serbia unveiled drafts of national security and defence strategies in which it maintains its proclaimed military neutrality. Presenting the documents, Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac said Serbia should forge a positive relationship with NATO within the PfP as soon as possible.
"My opinion on NATO membership is still abstract, since no one has asked or offered us the option of joining the organisation yet; hence, the defence ministry is not discussing that matter for the time being," Sutanovac added.
One of the ruling coalition members, the Serbian Renewal Movement, has started advocating additional co-operation with NATO. Party Vice President Srdjan Sreckovic said Serbia must intensify its activities within the PfP.
Sreckovic went on to say it is very difficult to imagine Serbia exercising any political or economic leadership in the Western Balkans with NATO members surrounding it.
At the moment, relations between NATO and Serbia are strained since the Alliance's force in Kosovo -- KFOR -- trained the Kosovo Security Force, an armed unit that Belgrade perceives as a threat.
In addition, memories of the 1999 bombing campaign, which claimed the lives of an estimated 2,500 Serbs, are still fresh. According to all recent polls, over 60% of the public still opposes membership in NATO.
However, NATO officials at the April 4th summit in Strasbourg, France, voiced "readiness for the development of partnership, political consultations and practical co-operation" with Serbia, adding that "the will and steps taken by the Serbian authorities" were important in the matter. The officials also called on Serbia to "support further progress towards strengthening peace and order in Kosovo".