Saturday

17th Feb 2018

Kosovo agreement clears Serbia's EU path

The agreement reached Tuesday (25 August) between Serbia and Kosovo lifted the main obstacle to opening membership negotiations between Serbia and the EU. But no formal decision will be taken soon.

The accord, which establishes an association of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo and deals with energy and telecommunications, "leads to the opening of negotiating chapters with the EU", Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic said in a statement.

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While Serbia's accession process was officially launched in January 2014, talks have not started yet.

Some EU member states, including Germany, said Serbia would first need to implement the 2013 Brussels pact that was a first step in the normalisation of the country's relations with Kosovo.

They also said that the first chapter of negotiations to be opened would be chapter 35, dealing with Kosovo relations.

Tuesday's agreement "is obviously a step in the right direction", an EU source told the website.

But the source said the EU would first wait for the publication of the annual progress report in October before any formal decision to start talks is taken.

"Serbia agreed to everything the EU asked", a diplomat said.



Discussions at a technical level will be held at the EU Council - representing member states - next week, while the European Commission and the EU external action service are preparing a report on chapter 35.

If the report is positive, it will be to the member states' ambassadors and then to EU ministers to decide whether to start accession talks.

European perspective

Serbian authorities expect the decision to be taken before the end of this year, with the negotiation process ending in 2018. Such a calendar would allow Serbia to enter the EU in 2020.



But amid economic crisis and enlargement fatigue in member states, and with a still volatile situation in Serbia and the Western Balkans, the process could drag on for years.

Meanwhile, with Kosovo still lagging behind on EU standards and facing non-recognition by five EU states, the question of whether Serbia and Kosovo should be admitted at the same time could also dog Belgrade's application.

"There will be no enlargement in the next five years", commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said when he came to office last year.

He also noted that the "Balkans needed a European perspective" and that "ongoing negotiations [would] continue", however.

In a visit to the region in July, German chancellor Angela Merkel said she "clearly supported the European perspectives of all the countries in the region", especially Serbia.

With the ongoing financial crisis in Greece and the growing migrant crisis in the region, anchoring Serbia to the EU has become a geopolitical issue.

Russia's attempts to gain more influence in the region are also playing a part in the EU's interest in stabilising Serbia and its neighbours.

Opinion

Farewell multi-ethnic Kosovo!

The recent EU-brokered deal for greater autonomy for Kosovar Serbs is the first step towards creating a second Bosnia in the region.

Kosovo clashes highlight Balkans' fragility

Supporters of firebrand politician Albin Kurti clashed with police in Pristina on Monday, in a sign of the enduring fragility of Kosovo and the region 20 years after the war.

Rights watchdog to visit Turkey over rule of law

The Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, is heading to Ankara next week. The trip follows new plans by Ankara to meet EU demands for reforms in areas like anti-terror legislation.

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