Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

EU diplomats: Serbia to get candidate status

  • Tadic and Ashton in Brussels on Monday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU diplomatic sources say objections raised by Lithuania, Poland and Romania are not serious enough to stop ministers recommending that Serbia gets official candidate status.

French foreign minister Alain Juppe jumped the gun on Monday (27 February) by telling press in Brussels one hour before internal talks on Serbia that the Balkan country is heading for the upgrade.

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

"There was an agreement today ... At least, there were no further objections," he said.

Lithuania, Poland and Romania later at the meeting raised concerns that Moscow has too much influence on Belgrade and that Serbia is mistreating its so-called "Vlach" Romanian minority.

One EU diplomat told this website on Tuesday morning the complaints are "not party stoppers," however.

He said the negative remarks are due to the fact all EU countries wanted to air views at a "historic" moment for the Union and to increase pressure for reform. "It's good that countries raise these things so that we don't get carried away in a sort of whoopee," the source noted.

"I am sure we'll have a good conclusion," a diplomat from one of the three objecting EU countries said. "We are not blocking Serbia, but on the condition of enhanced monitoring by the [European] commission," a contact from another objecting country added.

Serbian President Boris Tadic and EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton also voiced optimism late on Monday at a press briefing in the EU capital. "I really hope that tomorrow we will see the General Affairs Council [Gac] move forward," Ashton said.

In terms of process, if EU foreign ministers at the Gac on Tuesday endorse the move, EU leaders are likely to rubber stamp it at a summit later this week.

Serbia will then qualify for EU pre-accession money and might get the green light from EU leaders in December to open accession talks.

Serbia has problems with corruption and judicial reform. But the elephant in the room is the future status of Kosovar Serbs in north Kosovo, who reject central control by Kosovar Albanian authorities - a problem described as a "frozen conflict" by some EU diplomats.

The EU candidate decision is to come after Belgrade last year handed over its top war crimes fugitives and last week agreed to let Kosovo speak under its independent flag in multilateral meetings and to sign international agreements as if it was a normal country.

Its participation in meetings is to come with a footnote that this is "without prejudice" to the fact it does not have UN recognition, but also that the International Court of Justice says its declaration of independence was legal.

Ashton noted that the European Commission will shortly produce a feasibility study on how the EU can sign legal pacts with Kosovo despite the fact that five EU countries do not recognise it.

An EU official earlier told this website: "We are the best in the world when it comes to squaring the circle. Perhaps there could be a legal agreement accompanied by a declaration that it [for instance, a trade pact] only applies to this and this, but not that [status]."

For their part, Kosovar Albanian nationalists from the Vetevendosje (meaning "Self-Determination") political party have held protests in Pristina to say the footnote on international meetings fortifies non-recognition.

"The EU is feeding the little octopus [Serbia] so that it can separate it from the big octopus [Russia], but the problem is that the little octopus has its tentacles deep inside Kosovo," Albin Kurti, a Vetevendosje leader, told this website in the Kosovar capital late last year.

Leaked report challenges EU line on Serbian judiciary

Serbia's reform of the judiciary system is riddled with inconsistencies, intransparent and subject to political pressure, a leaked report shows in an apparent contradiction with the EU's public statement on the issue.

EU links Serbia's candidate status to Kosovo talks

Serbia will win EU candidate status if it improves relations with Kosovo. Montenegro can start membership talks but only with the most difficult chapters first, the EU has said in its latest report on accession.

EU lobby register still riddled with errors

The EU's lobby register remains riddled with errors, with pro-transparency campaigners demanding better data and mandatory rules. The latest findings come amid a raft of proposals by the European Parliament president to weed out corruption in the wake of Qatargate.

Opinion

Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'

The scars of Brexit have left their mark in communities across Wales. The Menai mussel industry has experienced a sharp decline having once been a staple in fish counters and restaurants across Europe; its business model wrecked by post-Brexit rules.

Column

Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue

All member states complain about European compromises, each for their own reasons. Nevertheless, these decisions tend to be robust precisely because there is enough in them for everybody. And nobody wants to start negotiating all over again for another deal.

Latest News

  1. Eight EU states press for more Turkey-style migrant swap deals
  2. EU buries head deeper in sand over Israel's apartheid
  3. Polish MEP also went on freelance Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why Europe's interminable compromises are a virtue
  5. Wales' message to Europe: 'We'll be back'
  6. MEPs to vote on risky 'hydrogen for home heating' rule
  7. The man who won't stop filing info requests until every EU doc is public
  8. EU hands Libya coast guard boats ahead of migration summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEU Social Dialogue review – publication of the European Commission package and joint statement of ETUFs
  2. Oxfam InternationalPan Africa Program Progress Report 2022 - Post Covid and Beyond
  3. WWFWWF Living Planet Report
  4. EFBWWEFBWW Executive Committee report on major abuses, labour crime and subcontracting
  5. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  6. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us