Serbia makes 'historic' leap into EU

2012-03-02 14:39

kalahari.com

Brussels - Serbia took a "milestone" leap towards EU membership when Europe's leaders granted Belgrade candidate status on Thursday, opening a new chapter in the troubled history of the Western Balkans.

"European Council grants Serbia EU candidate status," EU president Herman Van Rompuy said on microblogging site Twitter as the bloc's 27 leaders ushered in Belgrade in recognition of its efforts to defuse tension with breakaway Kosovo.

The decision to grant Belgrade official EU candidate status, a first but crucial step in an often long and rocky road to full membership, marks a historic leap for a country only 13 years ago the target of a Nato bombing campaign.

Serbian President Boris Tadic welcomed the EU's decision, saying it paves the way for "economic advance and prosperity".

However he warned that a "lot of work is ahead of us in order to launch the negotiations on the EU membership which is the next step after obtaining the status".

Serbia's 2009 application, launched in the throes of the financial crisis and amid worries that the EU had expanded too far and too fast in its 2004 "big bang" enlargement, has been fraught with problems.

More demands

Seen as a shoo-in for membership after last year's arrest of Balkans war criminals Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic after almost two decades on the run, Belgrade had been suddenly held back and told to do more for regional peace by easing ties with Kosovo.

While staunchly refusing to recognise Kosovo's 2008 independence, Serbia joined an EU-sponsored dialogue with its former province a year ago, aimed at smoothing tensions and overcoming daily headaches caused by the border row - problems such as disrupted roads, railways and telecommunications.

But Belgrade's hopes of a subsequent EU pat on the back at a December summit were dashed notably by Britain and Germany, among 22 EU nations to have recognised Kosovo. More was demanded from the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue.

Other EU nations fretted over the friendship with Russia enjoyed by one of the last ex-communist states of eastern Europe still outside the bloc.

But last week, Serbia and Kosovo, both keen to inch closer to the bloc, staged a key breakthrough.

In an 11th-hour deal days before the EU summit deadline, Belgrade agreed to allow Kosovo to speak under its flag in regional meetings and to sign international agreements like any other fully recognised nation.

Important milestone

The two sides also agreed to jointly manage their flashpoint border, scene of recurrent clashes in past months between Nato peacekeepers and Serbs who make up the majority in northern Kosovo but refuse to recognise Pristina' independence.

"Serbia deserves candidate status," said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

A summit statement also said the EU would study the feasibility of a trade and political accord with Kosovo, known as a Stabilisation and Association agreement.

"We have reached an important milestone," Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said on Thursday.

A decision on Serbia's bid had been expected earlier this week at EU ministerial talks but was blocked when Romania wielded its veto against opening the EU door to Belgrade - a decision requiring a unanimous vote.

Removing a last potential hitch, Serbia did a deal with Romania ahead of Thursday's summit to mutually respect the rights of each other's minority groups.

Other candidates


"The status of candidate will not bring us much in direct and fast benefits," said former premier Zoran Zivkovic this week. But "it is a historic event, strategically linking the future of small and poor Serbia with the huge European family".

For pro-European Serbian President Boris Tadic, largely credited with bringing the country closer to entry, Thursday's decision is a key to stopping nationalist victories in May elections in case of a new EU rebuff.

Of the six nations once part of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 while Croatia is to be anointed the 28th member next year.

Macedonia and Montenegro are both official candidate countries but have yet to be approved for opening formal adhesion negotiations, a process that can take years. Politically divided Bosnia has made no move towards the EU.

Read more on:    eu  |  serbia
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/World

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

IT Support Engineer Required.

Western Cape
ImpactISP
R8 000 - R18 000 Per Month

Specialist Cruise Consultant

Cape Town
Flight Centre South Africa
R7 550 Per Year

Electronic Technician

Cape Town Southern Suburbs
DAV Professional Placement Group
R140 000 Per Year

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is an emphasis on work. There may be some restrictions, or delays or extra responsibilities. It is all about rhythm and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.