By Bojana Barlovac
Serbia’s next EU goal – obtaining a start date for accession talks – depends on further progress in talks with Kosovo, Enlargement Commissioner says.
EU flags were hoisted over state buildings in Belgrade last Friday to celebrate Serbia’s progress towards European Union membership.
After the country became an EU candidate last Thursday, President Boris Tadic said that Serbia’s next goal was to get a date for a start to accession talks.
“Only then will our October 5 dreams come true,” Tadic told the Serbian government’s Council for European Integration on Friday, referring to the street revolution on October 5, 2000 that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic and brought democratic changes to the country.
On Thursday, the European Parliament urged the EU’s executive body to open accession negotiations with Serbia as soon as possible.
However, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, reminded Belgrade that “the timeframe is very much in the hands of Serbia.”
Serbia needed to move further forward in normalising ties with its former province of Kosovo through EU-mediated negotiations in Brussels, Fule added.
According to Fule, this normalisation of ties included resolving important issues of energy and telecommunications.
Meanwhile, Borislav Stefanovic, Serbia’s chief negotiator in talks with Kosovo, said that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which started in March 2011, would resume after a new government had been formed in Serbia. General and local elections are due on April 29 or May 6.
The European Commission can recommend a start to accession talks at any time and will not have to wait for the next progress report on Serbia, due in October.
But compared to obtaining candidacy, obtaining a start date for negotiations is a bigger step, requiring consistent implementation of reforms and control of their implementation.
Negotiations begin with the “screening” and evaluation of the candidate country’s legislation. The aim is to determine any differences in law between the EU and the candidate country in each of 35 chapters.
Screening is done separately for each chapter after which the Commission compiles a report based on which EU ministers approve the opening of negotiations.
Negotiations are conducted for each section separately, and closure of each chapter requires the approval of all member states.
Usually talks have started at least a year after a country obtained candicate status. However, Macedonia has been awaiting a start date to accession talks since 2005.
Montenegro expected to start accession talks last December – a year after it was granted candidate status, but these were postponed until June this year because it was deemed that Montenegro needed to make further progress in reforms.
Croatia obtained candidate status in June 2004 and started negotiations in October 2005. It did not conclude them until last summer.