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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid