Belgium relaxes position on Serbia
Belgium and The Netherlands come under pressure to place EU concerns of ultranationalists regaining power in Serb’s upcoming election over their own demands.29 April 2008
BELGIUM - European Union foreign ministers are likely to offer a new pre-membership aid and trade pact to Serbia on Tuesday in an effort to sway Serbs to vote for pro-Western parties ahead of an important May election.
The 27 nation bloc is increasingly worried that ultranationalists will regain power in Serbia's 11 May parliamentary vote and would like to ensure pro-European parties win the vote.
The Dutch and Belgians have been under heavy pressure from the other EU countries to drop their demands that Belgrade hand over former Bosnian Serb military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, and ex-political leader, Radovan Karadzic before signing the new aid pact.
The two Serbs are being sought on genocide charges by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. They are believed to have orchestrated the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, and other atrocities of Bosnia's 1992-95 war.
EU stability and association agreement
The EU accord would offer Serbia increased aid, trade and technical expertise to prepare it for possible EU membership talks.
The EU would also offer Serbs visa-free travel to the EU bloc for students and business travellers.
The agreement however has been has been on the backburner since Kosovo's declaration of independence in February.
Kosovo independence soured EU-Serbia ties
Kosovo's independence was quickly recognised by 38 countries, including the United States, Japan, Canada, Belgium and most other member countries of the European Union.
Serbia and Russia however oppose it. They hope to prevent more nations from recognising Kosovo as Europe's newest nation.
European countries such as Slovakia, Spain, Greece and Romania, have reservations about recognising Kosovo.
Pro-European parties in Serbia have pleaded with the EU to sign the accord, saying it would help them in the election.
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht told Belgian media on Sunday that The Netherlands and Belgium would soften their stance at the Tuesday talks to help out the pro-EU camp, led by Serb President Boris Tadic.
In Serbia, the media are indeed anticipating that The Netherlands and Belgium would drop their objections to the aid and trade pact in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
The Serbian parliament speaker Oliver Dulic said such a move would be "good news".
[flandersenews.be / Expatica]