Saturday

24th Feb 2018

Bosnia angered by signing of EU-Serbia deal

The signing of a pre-accession deal between the EU and Serbia has been criticised by Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has so far not had the privilege of being offered a similar deal.

"Although the practice of the EU is to insist on fulfilment of all the requirements needed for deepening relations with potential member states, this act shows that Serbia enjoys some benefits like no other country," Haris Silajdzic, the Bosniak chairperson of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite state presidency, said in a statement reported by press agencies on Wednesday (30 April).

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Mr Silajdzic accused the EU of employing "double standards" after the bloc on Tuesday signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia, despite the country's failure to capture fugitives indicted for war crimes during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Full cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague had been required by the EU as a condition for allowing Serbia to take this political step towards to the bloc, but the signing of the pre-accession deal took place even though this has not happened.

The move is seen as an attempt to send a strong political signal to Serbian voters who are to go to the polls to elect their new government in less than two weeks, on 11 May.

The implementation of the SAA will remain frozen, however, until Belgrade is judged to be fully cooperating with the tribunal.

Meanwhile, Bosnia's own SAA could not be signed on Tuesday because of purely "technical reasons", although the country's parliament earlier this month approved a controversial police reform set as a condition by Brussels.

"We have to wait until all three Bosnian languages are properly checked and until everything is in order with the legal details," Slovenian foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

"It's a long agreement, it's a huge text that needs a lot of legal and translation work," he added.

But the Croatian member of Bosnia's presidency, Zeljko Komsic, also questioned the EU's arguments.

"How we can justify the fact that signing the SAA was promised to Bosnia and Herzegovina and that, at the same time, only the English version of the text was completed, while the technical part of the job was finished for Serbia," he was reported as saying by DPA news agency.

Bosnia's SAA is now set to be signed in May. "Probably at the next council meeting on the 26th," Slovenia's foreign minister said.

EU attempts to woo Serbia with pre-accession deal

With just over a week to go until what is being billed as decisive elections in Serbia, the EU on Tuesday sent a strong political signal to the western Balkan country that its future belongs in the European Union.

EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement

After the European Commission presented its Western Balkans strategy last week, with a view of possibly integrating the region by 2025, some EU ministers were less enthusiastic after their first discussion of the new policy.

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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