In this interview, Sonja Licht speaks about how the political climate in Serbia since 2007 has impacted the country’s Europeanization process. Licht indicates first that the elections in 2007 did little to change the pro-EU policies in government and sentiments of the people. Licht describes how Serbia’s involvement with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) heavily dictated the direction and progress the country was able to make in its EU-accession efforts. She notes that pro-EU sentiments increased among the Serbian public in response to the ICTY extradition process, probably because the people felt that being incorporated into a European family would allow the country to overcome its challenges and prosper. Furthermore, Licht points out that their support was based in a desire to escape the economic crisis they had fallen into and their shock at the declaration of the independence of Kosovo.
Licht explains that Boris Tadic and Milica Delevic played an important role in furthering the EU-accession process after 2008. She also describes the exceptionality of SEIO in furthering Serbia’s Europeanization—particularly because of the spirit and passion of those working in the office and the office’s inclusiveness and professionalism. She points out that the 2008 government had the European Integration Council in which representatives from the government, civil society, academia, etc. would advise the administration on how to move the EU-accession process forward. Though the 2008 administration did not heed much of the advice given by the Council, Licht says that they faired better than the 2012 administration that refused to convene the Council. She lauds the early development of Serbia’ National Program for Integration (NPI) for sending a message to the EU that Serbia was ready for the accession process. She also indicates that the EU-accession process is a state building process, particularly for ministries of Finance, Energy, Justice, and others. Licht describes efforts to reform Serbia’s judiciary. She explains the political challenges faced in the Serbian government, particularly in its ability to set priorities for national development and Europeanization. Licht concludes by highlighting the success of incorporating civil society organizations into the discussion on Europeanization by setting up the European Convent in Serbia.
At the time of this interview, Sonja Licht was the president of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE), which she founded. She was also the president of the Foreign Policy Council at the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the chair of the executive committee of the International Center for Democratic Transition, a board member of the Council of the European Cultural Foundation, a member of the advisory board of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces and of the Geneva Center for Security Policy. Previously, she worked as the president of the Open Society Fund and served as a member of the managing board of Politika AD. She received the French Legion of Honor and the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity award. Vreme magazine also named her the 2007 Person of the Year.
Born and raised in Serbia, Licht received her Bachelors degree in sociology and Masters degree in socio-cultural anthropology from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy.