Wednesday

28th Jul 2021

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"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.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal

Spain would be prepared to recognise Kosovo if it clinched a deal with Serbia, Madrid has said, in the first positive signal of its kind since EU-brokered talks resumed.

Kosovo to restart EU/US-led Serbia talks

Restarting talks on Serbia relations will be the new Kosovo prime minister's top priority, he said, but will the EU or the US lead the process?

Opinion

Montenegro's membership can inspire the European Dream

Today (15 December) I come to Brussels with a simple purpose: to present the credentials of my country, Montenegro, to become the next member state of the European Union, writes prime minister Zdravko Krivokapic.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU hits vaccination target, as Delta variant now dominates
  2. European arms 'displaced over a million people', research finds
  3. Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?
  4. US maintains summer travel ban on EU tourists
  5. Does democracy need troublemakers?
  6. Separating migrant families at EU borders must stop
  7. Germany mulls restrictions for unvaccinated as cases soar
  8. 'Prison island' birthplace of EU reborn as think-tank venue

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us