Saturday

13th Aug 2022

EU countries push back date for Serbia talks

EU countries have agreed to open accession talks with Serbia, but the first meeting is to be later than initially proposed and might be subject to further review.

The decision, by foreign and EU affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday (25 June), is to be rubber stamped by EU leaders in Brussels on Friday.

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

It says the ministers recommend the first intergovernmental conference (IGC), launching the process, is to take place "at the very latest" in January 2014.

Earlier drafts of the text had spoken of an IGC no later than December this year, but the date was pushed back at the request of Germany, which requires a mandate from the Bundestag and which is traditionally cautious on enlargement.

Tuesday's decision also says: "The European Council [EU leaders] will … be invited to decide if it wishes to confirm the EU negotiating framework to be adopted."

The phrase leaves it open for Friday's summit to say whether EU ministers will in future fix the precise date of the IGC, or whether EU leaders will make the final call.

The latter option is tougher on Serbia, because EU leaders' meetings take place less frequently and are more political in nature, creating more scope for last-minute objections if Serbia reneges on reforms.

EU ministers on Tuesday also agreed to launch talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo.

Five EU countries still do not recognise the new entity, but the SAA talks would mark its first legal step toward EU entry despite the legal conundrums this creates.

Enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele on Tuesday said it is "a good day" for Belgrade and Pristina.

He also said the decision enhances the "credibility" of the EU's enlargement process.

With Croatia set to join the Union on 1 July in any case, he noted: "If partners deliver on their homework, the member states deliver on moving that partner to the next stage in the accession process."

EU ministers and Fuele both praised EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton for helping to make progress possible.

Ashton in April brokered a deal between Kosovar ad Serb leaders on how to end the frozen conflict over the ethnic Serb enclave in Kosovo.

She noted in a press briefing on Monday that around 50 officials from both sides are currently in her building in the EU capital working out details of implementation.

She added that Serbia has already taken "irreversible" steps, such as closing down some of its security operations in north Kosovo.

Fuele said the fine print on whether EU leaders or ministers will decide on the final Serbia date is unimportant.

"There are no new conditions … It is not a two stage process," he said.

He also underlined that January 2014 is only the "latest" date, with every possibility the Serbia IGC could still take place this year.

But for his part, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle indicated that the minor delay and the details on the decision-making process are significant. "This would give the opportunity to observe which steps in the implementation are really made," he told press in Luxembourg.

Ashton clinches Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia is to get a date for EU entry talks, Kosovo is to get control over its north and EU foreign policy chief Ashton got kudos after a breakthrough in talks.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us