EU presses Serbia on reform
EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy Tuesday (4 September) encouraged Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dačić to step up reforms on its path to EU membership and open up greater dialogue with Kosovo.
“A visible and sustainable improvement of relations with Kosovo remains a key requirement for the next step, the start of EU accession negotiations,” said Rompuy in a statement after their meeting in Brussels.
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Serbia’s EU candidate status was granted in March. It is required to enact a number of political reforms concerning its judiciary, the fight against corruption and organised crime.
Serbian lawmakers adopted amendments in March that give its parliament supervisory power over the central bank. The move drew criticism from the European Commission.
Rompuy also stressed the need for structural reforms to attract business and help alleviate Serbia’s unemployment.
But its relations with Kosovo remain difficult as tensions between the ethnic Serbs and Kosovar Albanians continue to flair sporadically along the border.
Serbia, along with five EU member states, refuses to recognise Kosovo’s independence. While Serbia is required to normalise relations with Kosovo to gain EU membership, it does not have to recognise it as an independent state.
Mixed messages on Kosovo
Dačić, who was appointed prime minister in July, also met Martin Schulz, EU parliament president, and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele.
Dačić assured Schulz that Serbia will aim to promote stability and security in the region including in its relations with Pristina.
“I underlined the strong commitment of the Serbian government to continue on its European path and to fulfil all the criteria,” said Dačić.
The statement was followed by Schulz who told reporters that the “EU as a whole is asking Serbia to recognise Kosovo. We have also to make our homework within the EU. So it is easy to understand that this is one of the most difficult and delicate questions for both sides for the time being.”
Schulz was later “corrected” by the EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele who said the EU had adopted conclusions in December that would not require Serbia to recognise Kosovo.