Monday

25th Jul 2016

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event Agenda for 2016
  2. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  3. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  4. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  8. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  9. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  10. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company
  11. Access NowEuropol Supports Encryption. We Can Relax Now… Right?
  12. GoogleLearn about Google's projects across Europe on Twitter @GoogleBrussels