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23rd Feb 2019

Serbia unlikely to win EU candidate status this year

  • Belgrade's EU bid depends on a resolution of the situation in Kosovo (Photo: Konrad Zielinski)

The continued deadlock in Kosovo-Serb relations after this summer's violence is likely to prevent member states from granting Belgrade official EU candidate status at an upcoming summit on 9 December.

"France is in favour of recognising Serbia's candidate status, but it has to resume dialogue with Kosovo. At the moment, there is no unanimity among the 27 member states," French foreign minister Alain Juppe told reporters on Monday after discussing Serbia's bid with fellow EU foreign ministers.

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EUobserver understands that Germany is blocking granting Serbia candidate status after the continued blockade and violence in northern Kosovo by ethnic Serbs. The Polish EU presidency is also not a big supporter of the cause.

"It's hard to be enthusiastic about it when our policemen in northern Kosovo are having a hard time because of the fact that Serbia has not yet acquiesced to Kosovo's independence," one senior Polish diplomat told a handful of journalists on Monday evening.

"We always give them the example of Poland. Poland lost a third of its territory after World War Two. Sometimes, you just have to let it go," the source added.

Meanwhile, EU efforts are under way to bring Pristina and Belgrade back to the negotiating table. Kosovar media and Reuters reported that the EU negotiator Robert Cooper is pressing for a meeting to take place by the end of this week or beginning of the next, so as to turn the tide before the December summit.

Mainly technical and aimed at making it easier for Kosovar Serbs and Albanians to travel to neighbouring Serbia, the talks broke off in June, as Pristina decided to enforce a trade ban on Belgrade, in a tit-for-tat move. Ethnic Serbs erected barricades and prevented Kosovo border police from taking up their posts, setting up buildings on fire and killing one Kosovo policeman.

Belgrade maintains that it has no control over the rioting Serbs in Kosovo and has publicly distanced itself from the violence. But EU diplomats are sceptical that Serbia's hands are clean, as it still regards Kosovo as its own province, three years after Pristina declared independence.

EU links Serbia's candidate status to Kosovo talks

Serbia will win EU candidate status if it improves relations with Kosovo. Montenegro can start membership talks but only with the most difficult chapters first, the EU has said in its latest report on accession.

Kosovo violence threatens Serbia's EU bid

A flare up in violence in north Kosovo has alarmed EU officials as Brussels gets set to rule whether or not Serbia is ready for EU candidate status.

Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, Serbia's foreign minister has said, as the Western Balkans heads into a new period of turbulence.

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