Sunday

26th Mar 2017

Serbia's EU bid uncertain as roadblocks stay in place

  • Talks in Brussels are not translating into changes on the ground (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Nothing has changed on the ground in north Kosovo after Serbia agreed a new border pact designed to help it get EU candidate status.

A spokesman for the Eulex police mission in Kosovo told EUobserver on Saturday (3 December) that Kosovar Serbs are still manning roadblocks in the region in a situation which saw live fire against German Nato soldiers five days ago: "There are no reports of fresh violence but the barricades are where they were before the agreement was reached."

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The EU late on Friday announced that Serb and Kosovar Albanian negotiators in Brussels reached a deal on Integrated Border Management (IBM) designed to make the problem go away.

"This means that the parties will gradually set up the joint, integrated, single and secure posts at all their common crossing points. Eulex will be present in line with its mandate. The IBM concept will be gradually implemented as soon as practically possible," the communque said.

Serb negotiator Boris Stefanovic caused confusion shortly afterward by telling the Tanjung news agency that deal is incomplete. "Although we came significantly closer [to an agreement], we still need to put the dot on the 'i'," he said.

One question is whether Kosovar Albanian police will be welcome at the crossing points while wearing "Republic of Kosovo" badges. In a separate deal on free movement to go into force on 26 December, Kosovar Serbs will be allowed to use special number plates which say "Kosovo" but not "Republic of."

The north Kosovo barricades will be a big issue when EU ministers meet in Brussels on Monday to decide whether Serbia should get EU candidate status.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday made clear she does not buy the line that Serbia has no control over the well-armed and well-financed Kosovar Serb paramilitaires.

"Serbia must ... face accusations it has contributed to an atmosphere in the past days in which German [Nato] soldiers were attacked with firearms," she told the Bundestag. "I very much regret that Serbia has not met expectations [on normalising relations with Kosovo] sufficiently so far and that therefore the preconditions for giving it candidate status are not in place."

EU foreign relations spokeswoman Maja Kocjancic on Saturday echoed Merkel.

"We believe that they [Serbia] are in the best place to pass on these messages to Serbian politicians in Kosovo. They have very many links. They are well placed to do that," she told this website.

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.

Serbia and Montenegro face setbacks on EU path

Leaders are to grant Serbia EU candidate status in March 2012 provided it steps up talks with Kosovo, while Montenegro's membership talks will start in June pending a crackdown on corruption and crime.

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The EU and Serbia have moved a step closer despite regional tensions, with a Serb minister calling the EU "the best place in the world".

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