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6th Mar 2021

Serbia and Montenegro takes baby step toward EU membership

  • The EU stopped short of an ultimatum on the war crimes suspects still at large (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The European Commission has given Serbia and Montenegro the thumbs up to start talks on a Stabilisation and Accession Agreement (SAA) with the EU, in a feasibility study out Tuesday (12 April).

The agreement would form the first legal step on the road to accession. But Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn declined to speculate on a date for full membership.

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The Commission hopes to obtain member states' blessing on the SAA before the tenth anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accord in December this year and to wrap up ratification in 2006.

Mr Rehn said the pace of progress on the SAA partly depended on Belgrade's co-operation with the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Several indicted war criminals are still at large in Serbia and Montenegro, including general Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.

"It would be extremely important that Mladic and Karadzic are brought to justice by the time of the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre," Mr Rehn said.

Bosnian Serb forces executed 700 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, in July 1995.

War crimes suspects

The Commissioner added that full EU membership is unthinkable while war crimes suspects remain at large, but he stopped short of issuing an ultimatum.

Mr Rehn pointed out that the EU signed an SAA with Croatia in 2001, despite lacking full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal at the time.

"We are committed to giving equal treatment to every country in the Western Balkans," the Commissioner indicated.

Meanwhile, The International Commission on the Balkans urged the EU to move ahead with membership for Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania in a report also published on Tuesday.

The Western Balkans risks becoming a European ghetto of poverty, lawlessness and political instability under the current status quo, the group concluded.

The study suggested that the Western Balkan states should join the EU in June 2014.

The move would mark the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in the same city, which led to World War I.

The Balkans commission proposed holding an EU-sponsored summit in 2006 to provide the region with a clear road map and to start accession talks in 2009 or 2010.

The group also urged NATO to invite the Adriatic Charter countries, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia, to join its ranks next year.

The Balkans Commission is an international pressure group composed mainly of former politicians, with a secretariat based in Sofia, Bulgaria.

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