Independent since the 2006 breakup of its short-lived union with Montenegro, Serbia is a small but hugely misunderstood country. Proud and passionate with a penchant for partying, it is also a fractious nation with many unresolved historical issues.
Serbia is an official candidate for EU membership, having started accession talks in late 2015, but it remains to be seen how the EU-facilitated dialogue with its former province of Kosovo – which declared independence in 2008, a move that Serbia refuses to recognise – will affect these aspirations. Some Serbs also resist the changes that joining the EU would bring to their fiercely independent country.
Serbia joined NATO's Partnership for Peace in 2006. However, it maintains an official policy of military neutrality and doesn't aspire to join the alliance, which is extremely unpopular – to say the least – among the local population due to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign over Kosovo.
In addition to its struggling economy and a 16% unemployment rate, Serbia's serious challenges include an aging population (partly due to low natality but also because younger people continue the decades-long trend of emigration in search of a better life abroad), and declining press freedom standards, according to the Reporters Without Borders 2018 index on media freedom.