News / Europe

EU Gives Serbia Green Light to Start Membership Talks

European Commision President Jose Manuel Barroso greets Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic (L) after a joint news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, June 26, 2013.
European Commision President Jose Manuel Barroso greets Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic (L) after a joint news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, June 26, 2013.
Reuters
Serbia won the green light on Friday to start negotiations by January on joining the European Union, capping a remarkable transformation in the prospects of the biggest former Yugoslav republic since the 1990s wars.

The decision, announced at an EU summit, rewards Belgrade for an April deal to improve relations with its former province of Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia in a 1998-99 guerrilla war.

EU leaders also agreed Brussels should launch negotiations with Kosovo on a so-called association agreement, which covers trade, economic and political relations and is a step on the path to eventual EU membership.

The leaders agreed talks would start in January 2014 "at the very latest'' with Serbia, which was long treated as a pariah because of its central role in the wars that tore through the Balkans after the 1991 collapse of Yugoslavia.

"We are at a historic moment for the Balkans and for Europe as a whole,'' European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told a news conference, noting that the decisions on Serbia and Kosovo came as Croatia prepares to join the European Union on Monday.

"These ... decisions are an immediate result of the courageous agreement Belgrade and Pristina reached last April," said Van Rompuy, who will travel to both capitals on Monday.

Serbia and Kosovo have been at odds since Kosovo seceded in 2008 with Western backing. After months of EU-brokered talks, the two sides reached an agreement in April aimed at ending the virtual ethnic partition of Kosovo between its ethnic Albanian majority and a pocket of some 50,000 Serbs in the north.

The agreement still has to be fully implemented, and EU governments will assess progress before giving a final, formal go-ahead to talks later this year.

The EU negotiation process should help drive reforms in Serbia, the largest country to emerge from the former Yugoslavia, luring investors to its ailing economy.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, leader of the co-ruling Socialists and ex-spokesman for late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, said his government had worked hard for the EU bid.

"The date for [EU] accession talks is the first step of this great journey we are about to undertake," Dacic said in a live broadcast of a cabinet session.

Defense Minister Aleksandar Vucic, head of the conservative Serbian Progressive Party, said the Balkan state must do more to consummate reforms.

"This is the turning point in our modern history. Serbia has demonstrated that no one can stop its way forward," Vucic told ministers.

In Belgrade about 2,000 hardline nationalists rallied peacefully against EU accession and demanded the resignation of the government.

Currency Buoyed

The Serbian dinar swung upwards to 113.5 to the euro after the EU agreement from a low of 114.05 earlier in the day, currency traders in Belgrade said.

Mladen Dodig, head of research at Erste Bank in Serbia, said the date for EU membership talks would be a major support for reforms and improvement in the business climate, and would boost investor confidence and foreign investment.

"This will have a stabilizing effect for financial markets and the foreign currency market, but I also expect structural reforms," said Miladin Kovacevic, the deputy head of the Serb Statistics Office.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the EU's decision and said KFOR, the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force, would "continue to play its role by ensuring a safe and secure environment for all people in Kosovo."

KFOR, in Kosovo since June 1999, comprises 5,000 troops from 31 countries.

Dacic said this week he hoped Serbia could wrap up membership talks in four to five years, although the widely-held view in Brussels is that it is unlikely to be admitted before 2020.

In the past few years, Serbia has made notable strides towards the EU thanks to progress on democratic reforms and the capture of fugitives wanted for crimes during the Yugoslav wars.

Serbs consider Kosovo the fount of their nation and Orthodox Christian faith, but Belgrade lost control over the territory in 1999 when NATO conducted 11 weeks of air strikes to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians in a counter-insurgency campaign by Milosevic's security forces.

Kosovo is now recognized by 100 nations, including the United States and 22 of the EU's 27 members.

Of Serbia's fellow ex-Yugoslav republics, Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, Croatia follows on Monday and tiny Montenegro began membership talks last year. Macedonia is a candidate, while Bosnia has yet to apply.

($1 = 0.7691 euros)

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More