Friday

24th Feb 2017

EU countries push back date for Serbia talks

EU countries have agreed to open accession talks with Serbia, but the first meeting is to be later than initially proposed and might be subject to further review.

The decision, by foreign and EU affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday (25 June), is to be rubber stamped by EU leaders in Brussels on Friday.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It says the ministers recommend the first intergovernmental conference (IGC), launching the process, is to take place "at the very latest" in January 2014.

Earlier drafts of the text had spoken of an IGC no later than December this year, but the date was pushed back at the request of Germany, which requires a mandate from the Bundestag and which is traditionally cautious on enlargement.

Tuesday's decision also says: "The European Council [EU leaders] will … be invited to decide if it wishes to confirm the EU negotiating framework to be adopted."

The phrase leaves it open for Friday's summit to say whether EU ministers will in future fix the precise date of the IGC, or whether EU leaders will make the final call.

The latter option is tougher on Serbia, because EU leaders' meetings take place less frequently and are more political in nature, creating more scope for last-minute objections if Serbia reneges on reforms.

EU ministers on Tuesday also agreed to launch talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo.

Five EU countries still do not recognise the new entity, but the SAA talks would mark its first legal step toward EU entry despite the legal conundrums this creates.

Enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele on Tuesday said it is "a good day" for Belgrade and Pristina.

He also said the decision enhances the "credibility" of the EU's enlargement process.

With Croatia set to join the Union on 1 July in any case, he noted: "If partners deliver on their homework, the member states deliver on moving that partner to the next stage in the accession process."

EU ministers and Fuele both praised EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton for helping to make progress possible.

Ashton in April brokered a deal between Kosovar ad Serb leaders on how to end the frozen conflict over the ethnic Serb enclave in Kosovo.

She noted in a press briefing on Monday that around 50 officials from both sides are currently in her building in the EU capital working out details of implementation.

She added that Serbia has already taken "irreversible" steps, such as closing down some of its security operations in north Kosovo.

Fuele said the fine print on whether EU leaders or ministers will decide on the final Serbia date is unimportant.

"There are no new conditions … It is not a two stage process," he said.

He also underlined that January 2014 is only the "latest" date, with every possibility the Serbia IGC could still take place this year.

But for his part, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle indicated that the minor delay and the details on the decision-making process are significant. "This would give the opportunity to observe which steps in the implementation are really made," he told press in Luxembourg.

Ashton clinches Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia is to get a date for EU entry talks, Kosovo is to get control over its north and EU foreign policy chief Ashton got kudos after a breakthrough in talks.

Interview

'Don't push Turkey away', says writer Elif Shafak

Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

News in Brief

  1. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  2. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  3. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  4. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  5. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions
  6. Irish PM expected to quit amid police scandal
  7. After Brexit vote, 100,000 UK firms registered in Ireland
  8. Bayrou to support Macron in French presidential election

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  2. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  3. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  4. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  5. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  8. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  11. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  12. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year

Latest News

  1. Don't blame Trump for Europe's insecurity
  2. EU rules out post-Brexit 'hard border' with Northern Ireland
  3. Fewer EU pupils being taught two foreign languages
  4. Women and child refugees face abuse in French camp
  5. Russian military creates 'information force'
  6. Spain MPs to probe €60bn bank bailouts
  7. Crowded race to win EU medicines agency
  8. Fighting environmental injustice in Europe