Saturday

10th Apr 2021

Serbia gets EU candidate status, Romania gets nothing

  • War crimes grave in Bosnia: the EU decision was hard to imagine even this time last year (Photo: Ayuto)

EU leaders on Thursday (1 March) with 13 little words took a step hard to imagine in 1999, when Nato planes were bombing Belgrade, or even this time last year, when Serbia was still sheltering war crimes fugitives from The Hague.

"The European Council today agreed to grant Serbia the status of candidate country," they said in a formal communique at a summit in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The next step, opening accession talks, could come in December if Belgrade cleans up on corruption and keeps improving day-to-day relations with Kosovo. But the final step, EU entry, a few years down the line, will depend on more difficult issues - the status of Kosovo and the status of Kosovar Serbs in north Kosovo.

Asked on Thursday in Brussels if Serbia will have to recognise Kosovo to get into the EU, Swedish Prime Minster Fredrik Reinfeldt said: "The Kosovo issue will be at the heart of these discussions."

Peter Feith, the top envoy in Pristina of Kosovo-recognising countries, in an interview with EUobserver late last year said Serbia's support for the Serb enclave in Kosovo is also a big problem: "We cannot tolerate a new candidate for membership of the EU that is bringing in a frozen conflict."

For his part, Serb President Boris Tadic - set to clash with nationalist hardliners in elections in April - underlined the economic benefits of EU integration. "We have to take care of our citizens, their standard of living ... We are moving toward the EU for the future of our children," he said on Thursday in a statement on his website.

Romania had earlier said Serbia should be held back because it is mistreating its so-called "Vlach" Romanian minority group.

But diplomats from other member states saw it as a gambit to get the Netherlands - an important architect of Western Balkan integration - to drop its veto on letting Romania join the EU's passport-free Schengen zone.

Some EU countries sympathise with Romania on the subject because it has fulfilled technical criteria for Schengen entry.

"I don't think you should move the goalposts in the process," Danish leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt told press at the summit.

'Political will'

EU Council chairman Herman Van Rompuy, after chairing a special Dutch-Romanian meeting on Thursday, said there is "strong political will" to make a "positive decision" on Schengen in September.

But in the end Romanian President Traian Basescu backed down without any real concessions.

Dutch leader Mark Rutte said he will only lift the veto if the European Commission in July says Bulgaria and Romania have done enough to fight corruption. "We need two [commission] reports that point in the right direction," he noted.

An EU official told this website: "It's hard for one country from Central and Eastern Europe to stand up alone to one of the large, old member states."

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.

Opinion

EU must open its eyes to Balkan realities

The EU does not seem to understand the urgency of the situation in the Balkans, even though it has hundreds of diplomats and officials posted to the region, writes Jeton Zulfaj.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Opinion

Montenegro's membership can inspire the European Dream

Today (15 December) I come to Brussels with a simple purpose: to present the credentials of my country, Montenegro, to become the next member state of the European Union, writes prime minister Zdravko Krivokapic.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us