EU foreign ministers recommend start of candidacy talks with Serbia by Jan 2014

By bne IntelliNews June 26, 2013

The EU foreign ministers recommended to the European Council on Tuesday, June 25, to start candidacy talks with Serbia by January 2014 at the latest, welcoming the country’s progress in normalising its relations with the former province of Kosovo.

The European Council is expected to endorse a decision on Friday, June 28, on whether and when it will open negotiations with Serbia. According to various media reports, most of the member states are ready to commence the talks by the end of 2013 but Germany is insisting Serbia should first demonstrate concrete results as part of the historic deal reached with Kosovo in April.

“The Council [of General Affairs] recommended the European Council to invite the Commission to submit without delay a proposal for a framework for negotiations with Serbia, incorporating the new approach to the chapters on the judiciary and fundamental rights and justice, freedom and security,” a statement issued following the EU foreign ministers’ meeting read.

It also recommended that the first intergovernmental conference with Serbia should be held “at the very latest in January 2014”, adding the European Council has to invite the Commission to carry out the so called screening process of the acquis communataire with Serbia.

Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a separate statement that based on the foreign ministers’ recommendation the European Commission expects that on Friday the European Council formally opens accession negotiations with Serbia.

Fuele explained that following the Council’s decision due on Friday, the Commission will draft a negotiating framework without delay, which should be then approved by the Council.

He pointed to the January 2014 time reference for the start of negotiations, adding it does not exclude the option of the first intergovernmental conference being held earlier. “The European Commission will work hard to make it technically possible, if agreed by the Member States, as early as October,” Fuele said.

The positive news for Serbia comes after the country and its government made and continue to make significant efforts to improve their relations with Kosovo, whose independence Belgrade has said it would never recognise. Nevertheless, the EU had highlighted it would not unblock Serbia’s integration process until it has outstanding issues with Pristina.

As a result, a historic EU-brokered deal was reached on April 19 and the two countries already began technical talks on its implementation. The main issue concerns the status of the majority Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo but the two sides have to also agree on major energy and telecommunications issues.

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