Serbia poised to get foot in European Union door
BRUSSELS / PRISTINA
German Foreign Minister Westerwelle recently visited Serbian President Boris Tadic (R). EU foreign ministers were expected to give Serbia candidate status despite some objections. AP photoEU foreign ministers have approved a first key step in Serbia’s bid to join the European Union, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Feb. 27, despite Romania, Lithuania and Poland indicated objections.
“There was an agreement today,” Juppe told journalists during a break in ministerial talks in Brussels. A formal decision to grant Serbia candidate status was expected to be given by European Affairs ministers yesterday, with an EU summit to deliver the final verdict on March 1 and 2. Serbia will then qualify for EU pre-accession aid and may receive the green light from EU leaders in December to open accession talks.
EU diplomatic sources said objections raised by Lithuania, Poland and Romania are not serious enough to stop ministers recommending that Serbia gets official candidate status, Euobserver website reported.
Lithuania, Poland and Romania raised concerns that Russia had too much influence on Serbia and that it continued to mistreat its so-called “Vlach” Romanian minority group. One EU diplomat told the website the complaints are “not party stoppers,” however. “We are not blocking Serbia, but on the condition of enhanced monitoring by the [European] commission,” a contact from another objecting country said. “This will encourage Belgrade to progress on its path toward rapprochement with the EU,” Agence France-Presse quoted Juppe as saying, but added that there was “still ground to cover.”
Six Serbian policemen detained
Belgrade strengthened its chances of winning entry to the bloc in an 11th-hour deal with Kosovo on Feb. 24 that enabled Pristina to become a full diplomatic player on the Western Balkans scene alongside Serbia. The groundbreaking accord notably allows Kosovo to take part in official regional meetings and organizations in its own right and as a full member.
As the EU agreed to give its green light to Serbia, the bloc’s mission in Kosovo said Feb. 27 that six suspected members of Serbia’s Interior Ministry were arrested in Kosovo over the weekend and remanded in custody for 30 days by an EU judge. “Six alleged members of Serbia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs” were arrested Feb. 25 in Gnjilane in southwestern Kosovo on suspicion of “exerting undue pressure on citizens of Partes not to recognize Kosovo institutions,” the EU mission EULEX said in a statement. Partes is a small Serb-populated enclave in the southwest of Kosovo.