25th Oct 2016

Netherlands prepared for 'creative solution' on Serbia

The Netherlands has indicated readiness to allow some EU concessions to Serbia ahead of early elections in the country, but remains opposed to signing a pre-accession deal with Belgrade.

"It is time to promote trust in Europe among Serbian voters," Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told a parliamentary committee on Thursday (24 April), according to Reuters.

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.

"We want to make clear that we have nothing against Serbia," he added.

Several EU states are reportedly favourable to signing a pre-accession deal with Belgrade – a so-called Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) – in order to boost the country's pro-Western forces ahead of the 11 May elections, which are seen as crucial for the country's future.

The vote will primarily pit current President Boris Tadic's Democrats against the nationalists of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) – currently the largest party in parliament.

However, the signing of the SAA is conditional on full cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague – in particular, Serbia is expected to arrest and hand over war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic.

The Netherlands and Belgium are particularly strict on that point, refusing to yield and let Serbia closer to the EU before this condition has been fulfilled.

Mr Verhagen said his country could offer a gesture to Serbia now, because general Mladic would never be arrested if the nationalists came to power. But the Hague would still rather "look for a creative solution to this dilemma," and remains opposed to signing the SAA until Belgrade cooperates fully with the tribunal.

Possible concessions could include visa liberalisation and trade access for Serbian products, Mr Verhagen said.

A similar deal was proposed by the EU in February and rejected by Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

Mr Verhagen's comments come ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers next Tuesday (29 April) in Luxembourg, when a discussion on Serbia is planned.

However, diplomatic sources have ruled out a signing of - or an offer to sign - any document with the Balkan country on this date. Instead, ministers will look at ways to reaffirm "Serbia's EU perspective".

A possible signing of the SAA is dividing Serbia's own political elite, with Mr Kostunica opposed to the move, considering it would mean abandoning Kosovo – which proclaimed independence two months ago, but which Serbia still considers Serbian territory – and recognising its independence.

At the same time, pro-European forces in Serbia favour signing the agreement, with President Tadic having repeatedly stated that Serbia's EU integration should continue no matter what.


Serbia and the convenient spy

The manufactured cold war between Croatia and Serbia has been a convenient distraction from some of Serbia's domestic problems.


EU's Kosovo meddling risks Balkans chaos

The EU and the US are is unfairly pressuring Kosovo to ratify a border deal with Montenegro against the will of the opposition. It could bring trouble to the Western Balkans region.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion