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EC: Candidacy and talks based on progress

13. October 2011. | 07:52 07:58

Source: Emg.rs, Tanjug

The European Commission on Wednesday recommended to the Council of the EU to award Serbia candidate status, taking into account progress achieved so far and on the understanding that Serbia reengages in the dialogue with Kosovo and is moving swiftly to the implementation in good faith of agreements reached to date.

The European Commission on Wednesday recommended to the Council of the EU to award Serbia candidate status, taking into account progress achieved so far and on the understanding that Serbia reengages in the dialogue with Kosovo and is moving swiftly to the implementation in good faith of agreements reached to date.

"Serbia is well on its way towards sufficiently fulfilling the political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association process, provided that progress continues and that practical solutions are found to the problems with Kosovo," reads the EC opinion.

The Commission therefore recommends that negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened with Serbia as soon as it achieves further significant progress in dialogue with Pristina.

This means fully respecting the principles of inclusive regional cooperation; fully respecting the provisions of the Energy Community Treaty; finding solutions for telecommunications and mutual acceptance of diplomas; by continuing to implement in good faith all agreements reached; and by cooperating actively with EULEX in order for it to exercise its functions in all parts of Kosovo, the report specifies.

The Commission will present a report on Serbia's implementation of the above key priority as soon as sufficient progress has been achieved.

"Serbia is encouraged to maintain the momentum of reforms in pursuing the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria, with particular attention to the rule of law, and to continue its constructive engagement in regional cooperation and in strengthening bilateral relations with neighbouring countries," says the document.

Implementation of the Interim Agreement, and from its entry into force, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, are expected to continue. The Commission will continue to support these efforts through the IPA financial instrument.

In the light of substantial reforms over the last years, Serbia has considerably progressed towards fulfilling the political criteria related to the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993, as well as the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

As regards the economic criteria, Serbia has taken important steps towards establishing a functioning market economy and achieved a certain degree of macroeconomic stability in spite of the global economic and financial crisis. However, further efforts will be necessary for restructuring the economy and improving the business environment.

Djelic:Start of negotiations possible in mid-2012

Serbia can expect a decision on the date of the beginning of negotiations on membership in the EU in March at the earlierst, and the beginning of negotiations by the middle of next year, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic said.

It is not realistic to expect that a date will be announced in December. The date will then be announced for Montenegro, but it is not impossible to imagine a scenario in which the two countries would actually start negotiations at the same time, Djelic told Tanjug.

For Serbia to start negotiations, a new European Commission report will be needed that will focus on the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, and then a comprehensive analysis of the situation in Serbia in 35 domains, he said.

Referring to the European Commission recommendation for Serbia to be awarded a status of candidate for membership in the EU in December, Djelic stressed that it was a great success and that, in the circumstances of economic crisis and the pressures and tensions in northern Kosovo, it was the best possible outcome.

Today, two good news were received from Brussels - the first is the clear recommendation on candidate status and the other the recommendation for opening negotiations for EU membership as soon as Serbia makes progress in the dialogue with Pristina and the dialogue is completely status neutral and does not involve the opening of any new themes, he explained.

This is a package that is acceptable for Serbia, and that could enable us to start negotiations on EU accession as early as next year, he said.

This is a reason to feel satisfied, but just as we could not have despaired in the past few days when some wanted to impose very hard conditions, we cannot now be euphoric, as this is only a recommendation which must be confirmed by all EU member-countries in December, Djelic said.

He pointed out that it is important that among the topics on which Belgrade and Pristina should negotiate, there is no mention of Serbian institutions or the judiciary in northern Kosovo.

We therefore have a reasonable and clear condition that we will strive to meet, Djelic said.

Explaining the economic benefits that Serbia could have from candidate status for membership in the EU, Djelic said that it would open the European budget to Serbia.

This, he explained, would mean that instead of six, Serbia would be able to participate in 26 EU sectoral programs, which would be most directly felt in the areas of agriculture, regional development and human resources.

Djelic, however, reminded that all reform projects in Serbia, commended in the EC report, primarily serve Serbia itself and its citizens.

No new conditions, Serbia can run record EU race

Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Vincent Degert said Wednesday, commenting on the European Commission (EC) opinion on Serbia's EU candidacy, that there are no new conditions and that the road to the EU and speed of accession depend on Serbia.

At a news conference held at the Media Center, he said the conditions mentioned in the report were already known.

Serbia has been given only one key priority which it needs to tackle - the normalization of relations with Kosovo, he said.

The EC will evaluate Serbia's progress based on progress in talks with Pristina and the implementation of the agreements reached to date, and since dialogue requires two sides, it will be considered how each side approached the process, he added.

The EC will make an evaluation together with EU mediator Robert Cooper and bring it before the Council of the EU, Degert noted.

There are no time limits. The time frame depends on Serbia, Degert said and reiterated that since there is only one key priority, the EC has not set any deadlines.

The Commission is ready to report to the Council as soon as there is progress, he explained.

Degert specified the Commission will evaluate the progress in several areas when it makes the decision to start talks with Serbia.

The first is Pristina's participation at international forums, because failure to appear hurts the entire region as agreements cannot be made.

This issue must be the first on the agenda and there must be room to resolve it, he noted.

Serbia also needs to start implementing already reached agreements on freedom of movement, civil registries, the cadaster, and solutions still need to be sought for issues related to energy and telecommunications, Degert said.

Another important area is mutual recognition of diplomas, which is very important for the younger generations, he said.

He noted it is also important that Serbia and EULEX intensify cooperation.

Degert stressed the EC has several reasons to be satisfied and commended Serbia for its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and extradition of the last two fugitives, as well as its success in carrying out reforms based on the Action Plan.

I am pleased that today we can say over 93 percent of the Action Plan has been realized, which is an incredible achievement. The reforms are not being conducted only on paper, he said.

Serbia now needs to show it has the capacity and the dedication to carry out the reforms, he added and identified four separate areas - functioning of democratic institutions, rule of law, human and minority rights, as well as economic competitiveness.


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