22nd Oct 2020

Push for Serbia EU accession speed-up in wake of Kosovo court ruling

A number of EU states are in favour of speeding up Serbia's EU accession process in the wake of Belgrade's loss at the International Court of Justice over Kosovo's declaration of independence.

The foreign ministers of Italy, Slovakia and Austria pushed for such a move heading into Monday's meeting of EU foreign ministers, the first time EU governments discussed the implications of the ICJ's finding last week.

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Ahead of the day's meeting, Italian foreign policy chief Franco Frattini told reporters: "At a time when we should understand Serbia's disappointment ... we need to help a sincere pro-European like [Serbian President Boris] Tadic with very positive message."

On 22 July, the International Court of Justice in the Hague opined that Kosovo had not violated international law by declaring independence in 2008.

"It could not have been today ... but the very positive message would be the handing over of Serbia's EU application to the European Commission," he said, referring to the next step in the process, in which the Council, representing the member states, request an evaluation of the application.

"Belgrade deserves a message of encouragement, such as the European path remaining open with no further preconditions," he said.

Austria's foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, also suggested some movement on Serbia's accession prospects was warranted.

"The important thing for Serbia is that we make their prospect of progress towards Europe concrete," he said, hinting that the autumn would be an appropriate time for such a move.

Using similar language, Slovakia, one of the EU's five member states refusing to recognise Kosovar independence, also argued for a "concrete roadmap" for Serbian accession.

Asked about a speed-up in the process, Slovak foreign minister Mikulas Dzurinda told reporters after the meeting: "I am for this ... This direction in relations between Belgrade and the EU community I consider substantial."

"We need to keep Belgrade with us more closely than before. We will do our best to add our voice to this, giving something like a concrete roadmap."

"The closer Serbia is to the EU, the better for Serbia, the Balkans and the EU, so I won't put put any barriers in the way."

A Romanian diplomat also suggested there had been a discussion focussing on the need "to keep the rhythm up," while adding: "it is too much to say speeding anything up."

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also downplayed the idea of any quid pro quo for Belgrade's loss at the International Court of Justice.

"There was a discussion on the back of the ICJ opinion and of support for talks with Pristina and Belgrade, but there was no discussion of speed or anything of that nature."

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?

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