Serbia renews push for EU membership

25th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Serbia's foreign minister visits Brussels on Monday for talks with European officials as the Balkans country renews its push to join the EU, hoping to open membership negotiations in a year's time.

BELGRADE - With disputes over Kosovo and Serbia's inability to capture a top war crimes suspect having interfered in the country's EU aspirations, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Belgrade would "do the maximum" to move the bid forward.

"We will do the maximum... to achieve application for membership, candidate status and then to begin negotiations during the Spanish presidency of the EU," early next year, B92 television quoted Jeremic as saying Sunday.

Belgrade plans to apply for candidacy before June, during the Czech presidency of the EU, and hopes to obtain candidate status by the end of 2009, Jeremic said.

"Full consensus within the European Union has not been reached so far and I will hold discussions in Brussels to find out if there is a way to achieve it," Jeremic said.

He was expected on Monday to meet officials from the European Commission, as well as from current EU president the Czech Republic and its successor Sweden. The EU presidency rotates every six months among member states.

Jeremic said he would also meet his Dutch counterpart Maxime Verhagen on the sidelines of the meeting in Brussels.

The Netherlands has been particularly opposed to Belgrade's further EU integration, including implementation of a key rapprochement agreement signed between the EU and Serbia last April. Its concerns centre on the failure to arrest Bosnian Serb wartime military chief Ratko Mladic.

Mladic, 66, is wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague for genocide and war crimes during Bosnia's 1992-1995 conflict during which he led Bosnian Serb army.

He is believed to be in hiding in Serbia, and Serbian authorities claim to be doing their best to capture the general.

"We have some new ideas," Jeremic said. "They are not a plot against the Netherlands, but an attempt to find a way out from the current situation."

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority unilaterally proclamed independence from Serbia last February.

The move, vehemently opposed by Belgrade but backed by most EU members, put a serious dent in relations between Serbia and the 27-nation bloc.

Despite the ill will over Kosovo, a pro-European coalition led by President Boris Tadic won early elections in May promising to speed up Serbia's EU integration.

However, the authorities have failed to adopt a number of laws important for the country's progress towards EU membership due to nationalist opposition.

Belgrade must carry out reforms regarding border control, the introduction of biometric passports and the fight against organised crime and illegal immigration in order to join Europe's border-free Schengen zone, diplomats say.

Visa liberalisation for its citizens is a priority for Belgrade.

"Citizens of this country should not be required to take a few days off work to apply for a visa to visit their relatives. They should not have to demonstrate that they own their own apartment to go to the Louvre," Jeremic said recently.

A number of expert missions will visit Serbia in the coming months to assess progress, said the head of the European Commission's delegation in Belgrade, Josep Lloveras.

AFP / Expatica

0 Comments To This Article