Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Opinion

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

As EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, their reluctance to use their diminishing leverage with Ankara means his dismantling of Turkey's democracy only speeds up.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ