By Bojana Barlovac
Serbia’s EU application bid will be on table of EU heads of states at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday evening.
EU foreign ministers at the General Affairs Council voted unanimously in favour of Serbia’s candidacy on Tuesday. The recommendation now requires confirmation at the EU leaders’ summit.
A day before the summit, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged EU leaders to adopt the recommendation of the General Affairs Council.
“Serbia deserves candidate status because it did everything we asked of it. From our point of view, the heads of state and government should grant it that status tomorrow,” Barroso said.
Jelko Kacin, European Parliament’s Rapporteur for Serbia, ahead of the summit, proposed a resolution recommending not only candidate status but also a start date for accession negotiations.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has also expressed a hope that Serbia will get a start date for accession talks and that talks will open by the end of the year.
Serbia started negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement – the first phase in the protracted membership process – back in 2005.
Talks have since have gone back and forth, largely depending on the country’s perceived level of cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, the ICTY.
In January 2011, Serbia filled out the EU questionnaire and four months later it cleared away one of the last remaining obstacles to candidacy when it arrested and handed over its most-wanted war crimes suspect, Ratko Mladic.
On December 9, the European Council postponed a decision on Serbia’s candidacy following an eruption of Serb nationalist violence in northern Kosovo.
Brussels said it wanted to see tangible progress in talks with Kosovo before making a final decision.
Both sides took notice, and Belgrade and Pristina worked out a compromise on the vexed question of Kosovo’s representation at regional meetings on February 24.
A date for accession talks, the next step on Serbia’s EU path, will depend also on further normalisation of relations with Pristina, a key issue for Brussels.
The Commission can recommend a start to accession talks at any time and it will not have to wait for the next progress report on Serbia, due in October.
Compared to candidacy, the start date for negotiations is bigger step, requiring consistent implementation of reforms and control of their implementation.
Usually talks start more than year after a country is granted candicate status. Macedonia has been awaiting a start date for accession talks since 2005 owing to its dispute with Greece over its name.