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EU moves on Serbia membership but insists on full war crimes co-operation

25. October 2010. | 15:47 21:04

Source: Emg.rs

The EU Council of Ministers has asked the European Commission to prepare the opinion of Serbia’s readiness to acquire the candidate status for membership in the EU, but with each next step of Belgrade being stipulated with the cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

The EU Council of Ministers has asked the European Commission to prepare the opinion of Serbia’s readiness to acquire the candidate status for membership in the EU, but with each next step of Belgrade being stipulated with the cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

It is reminded in the conclusions of the meeting in Luxembourg that the condition of the cooperation with the Tribunal is also contained in the Stabilization and Association Agreement and Interim Agreement, also in line with the Copenhagen criteria.

The Council of Ministers has invited Serbia to implement the recommendation of the Tribunal Prosecution, regarding the support of Serbia to the ongoing processes and its assistance in key issues of arresting the remaining Hague fugitives – Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

It would be the undisputed proof of Serbia’s effort and cooperation with The Hague, it is stressed in the document. The Council is also pledging for progress in the process of Belgrade-Pristina dialog with EU mediation, as it has been greeted as the factor of peace and stability in the UN General Assembly resolution.

It has been pointed that a constructive approach to the cooperation in the region is of fundamental importance.

Steven Vanackere, the foreign minister of Belgium, the current holder of the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers, told reporters after the meeting that Serbia had shown a willingness to establish a constructive dialogue with Kosovo and that this step would have to be acknowledged by the EU.He said a “good balance” had been found between sending a positive signal to Belgrade and maintaining war crimes conditionality. “Much remains to be done” before Serbia can enter the EU, he said.

Most decisions on EU accession have to be taken by unanimity, but some technical issues have in the past been open to majority voting. Monday's statement gives the Netherlands complete veto rights over every future step in Serbia's bid.

'With every step on the road to Europe, Serbia has to prove it fully cooperates with the tribunal. This is about the international rule of law,' Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said.

Members of the Dutch parliament have long said that they will only consider that Serbia is cooperating with ICTY once Mladic, in particular, is handed over.

'There is a risk' that Monday's statement will therefore leave Serbia's EU hopes hanging on the fate of a single man, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt acknowledged. 'Even the Netherlands have to see that a union is a union and not a collection of national vetoes,' Bildt said.

The commission is expected to take 12-18 months to finalize its opinion on Serbia's readiness for membership talks. No further EU decisions would be needed in the interim, giving Belgrade a window of opportunity to track Mladic down.

The EU executive is now expected to analyse Serbia's legal code, political standards and general diplomatic behaviour to see whether the country is ready for EU accession.

I welcome today's decision of the Council to refer to the Commission Serbia's application for EU membership. This opens an important new phase in EU-Serbia relations Commissioner Füle stated commenting the EU Council's decision to forward Serbia's application.

The Commission will engage immediately in the preparation of its Opinion on Serbia's application for membership. In a matter of few weeks we plan to hand over to our Serbian interlocutors the questionnaire that seeks information on Serbia's preparedness for opening accession negotiations with the EU.

The Commission will perform a thorough, objective and qualitative assessment of the merits of Serbia on all three Copenhagen criteria for accession: political, economic and the ability to take on the obligations of EU membership.

Today's decision is the expression of the strong EU support to Serbia and its leadership. This support is paralleled by equally high expectations.

The level and effectiveness of Serbia's cooperation with ICTY will be paramount to achieve a positive opinion on Serbia's membership application. I hope Serbia will be able to show to the ICTY prosecutor, during his next visit, that its efforts have been intensified since June. Serbia has in the last years achieved a credible record. We hope to see it now cover the last mile and locate and arrest the two fugitives at the earliest opportunity.

Serbia will also have to continue its reform efforts, in particular in the area of rule of law. The progress report that will be published on 9 November shall serve as a roadmap for the Serbian authorities to undertake every effort in order to feed into the findings of the opinion.

Finally, there are high expectations as regards good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation. Serbia made already a number of important steps towards its neighbours. We hope to see it engage constructively in the dialogue with Kosovo, in a European spirit.

The credibility of the enlargement policy is a joint responsibility. On our side, we need to deliver on our commitment, and reward achievements in the enlargement countries with progress on their path towards the Union. On their side, the candidate and potential candidate countries need to fulfil the membership conditions, so that our Member States are assured that this is a quality process that will bring into the EU countries that will make it not only larger, but also stronger.

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic has expressed pleasure over the decision of EU Council of Ministers to pass the Serbian candidacy for membership to the European Commission for analysis, and he assessed it opens the new era in the European integrations.

The goal of Serbia is to open the negotiation about the association with the EU immediately after receiving that candidate status, Djelic said in Luxembourg. He has pointed that Belgrade will have to prove the full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal and realize important reforms.

He has also expressed satisfaction with the fact the decision on candidacy has been passed unanimously. We told our partners we would prefer the decision to be unanimous without letting some country be outvoted, because we also wish for the best possible relations with Holland, explained Djelic. He has reiterated that Serbia is doing everything in its power to bring the cooperation with the Hague Court to the completion.

Vice-President of the European Commission (EC) Maros Sefcovic stated in Luxembourg on Monday that the European Commission will immediately start preparing its opinion on Serbia's EU membership candidacy.

The EU General Affairs Council decided on Monday to forward Serbia's application for full EU membership to the EC.

A consensus was reached and the commission now has to prepare an opinion on Serbia's readiness to begin membership negotiations, Vanackere told the news conference after a meeting of the General Affairs Council.

The EU sent a clear, positive signal to Serbia, said Vanackere, who was very pleased by the decision.

The Belgian official, however, noted that a lot more work still lies ahead.

The decision of the EU foreign ministers to forward Serbia's application for EU candidate status to the European Commission (EC) is the logical answer to all the efforts Serbia has put in recently, Democratic Party spokeswoman Jelena Trivan said Monday.

Trivan told Tanjug that the decision shows that the EU is treating Serbia as an equal partner that has a future in the EU.

"We have shown readiness to meet all standards and norms related to the EU integration process. We have shown readiness to reform our society, proven ourselves solid and loyal partners to the EU, prepared to protect the interest of the EU and the region," she assessed.

Trivan added that Serbia has shown that European interests and European values are its own, and has exhibited great courage in making decisions and conducting reforms, doing things that nobody expected or, in earlier times, dared to do.

"Of course Hague remains a condition, but what is important is that political willingness to meet this condition is no longer an issue," she said.

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic stated Monday that the EU foreign ministers' decision to unblock Serbia's candidacy represents the positive news which is significant for continuation of Serbia's EU integration.

Dacic told journalists that Serbia is ready to meet all the conditions set by the European Commission in the continuation of the proces of EU integration.

He expressed expectation that the future decisions of the EU, in relation to the continuation of Serbia's EU integration, will not take so much time and that they will be less painful.

According to Dacic, the EU foreign ministers' decision also places responsibility on the Serbian government to apply itself to work and do everything in its power to meet the set conditions.

Dacic reiterated that Serbia is not doing that for Europe, but for itself and added that the acceptance of European values would be to the advantage of its citizens.


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