EU Commission: 'Start Serbia membership talks'

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci - 19 April EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton helped broker the deal between Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (R) and Serbian leader Ivica Dacic

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The European Commission has recommended opening EU membership talks with Serbia, following Friday's landmark deal to normalise Serbia-Kosovo ties.

Serbia's government has approved the EU-brokered deal with its former province of Kosovo. Both Serbia and Kosovo want to join the EU.

There has been sporadic violence in Kosovo since the 1999 conflict.

Many countries recognise Kosovo as independent, but Serbia is among those, including Russia and China, who do not.

Five of the 27 EU countries do not recognise Kosovo: Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus.

Serbia insists that Friday's deal, granting a high degree of autonomy to Serb-majority areas in northern Kosovo, does not mean that it has recognised Kosovo's independence.

The Commission, which steers EU membership negotiations, said it "recommends that negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened with Serbia". EU foreign ministers will consider the issue on Monday.

In a report the Commission said Serbia had "actively and constructively" engaged in dialogue with Kosovo and had improved its co-operation with Eulex, the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo.

In a separate report the Commission also recommended opening talks with Kosovo on reaching a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU - a key step towards full EU accession negotiations.

The European Commission also proposed allowing Kosovo to participate in 22 EU programmes. The proposal requires approval from EU governments to go ahead.

Serb police chief

Kosovo's parliament in the capital Pristina, whose MPs are ethnically Albanian, accepted the 15-point deal with Serbia in a vote on Sunday.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but many of the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo have refused to recognise the authority of its mainly ethnic Albanian government.

In medieval times Kosovo was the centre of the Serbian Empire, and Serbs regard it as the birthplace of their nation.

Under the new deal, Serbs in northern Kosovo will have their own Serb police commander and appeal court. That court will sit permanently in northern Mitrovica. The town is ethnically divided, with a Serb majority in northern Mitrovica and ethnic Albanians in the south.

The text, reported on the European Voice website, says the police in Serb-majority municipalities will be ethnic Serbs, but the force will remain part of the "one police force in Kosovo called the Kosovo Police".

Both sides also agreed not to block each other's efforts to seek EU membership.

Countries in queue to join EU
Local autonomy

Earlier on Monday the Serbian government accepted the "first accord on principles which regulate normalisation of relations, reached during the dialogue on Kosovo in Brussels," said an official statement, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic had said that "if the government accepts the agreement, I expect Serbia to get a date to start membership talks with the European Union".

The deal says there will be legal recognition of a Serb-majority Association/Community in the north. It will have autonomy in key policy areas: economic development, education, health, urban and rural planning.

The deal was signed in Brussels on Friday by Mr Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, after long negotiations chaired by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

In 2008 and 2011 Serbia captured Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, respectively - the two most wanted Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects. By handing them over to The Hague the Serb government removed a major obstacle to its EU accession. Before Friday's deal Kosovo had been the other major stumbling block.

Mr Thaci told the Kosovan parliament on Sunday that "Serbia has recognised the full sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo".

Two ethnic Albanian opposition parties - the Democratic League of Kosovo, and Self-Determination - opposed the deal, calling it "treason" and "the foundation for a new Serbian republic" in the Balkans.

There was also a protest against the deal by Serbian nationalists in Belgrade on Sunday.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I believe the EU will implode one day. A "secret" Dutch govt. funded study some years ago came to that same conclusion. The question the assembled team was asked to research, "Where will the next world war start"
    The conlusion post study was that it would start from within the EU!
    The EU are certainly adding at an alarming rate, all the tools for the studies result to come true

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Scotland may be invited to join the EU, but Spain will veto it lest it gives the independent-minded Catalans any ideas.
    The only ones interested in joining the EU fiasco are those that want handouts. That's why you don't see Norway or Switzerland lining up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Serbia, save yourself some heartache. In 5 years the EU will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Hopefully the laws of economics will break it before extreme nationalism takes hold, again.


    I don't see how multiplying the population of vipers in the den would help us. It's hard enough prosecuting any banksters here, let alone in foreign Brussels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    You're taking the US example too literally.

    I'm not suggesting the EU will follow America's story to the letter - my point was that history can surprise you. Many people thought the US would collapse under the Great Depression - the reality was very different.

    Don't mock the future - you may end up eating your words. Observe with humility instead, especially as people's lives are affected by it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    37 Aotearoa

    You have to wonder if there is not a hidden agenda behind the expansion of the EU - the cost of this expansion, sure makes me wonder what its really all about???

    Simple - United we stand, Divided we fall

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    #61 Cyprus-hound

    "Alternatively,a nation of gangsters which pulled the wool over the eyes of that dimwit Ashton.When will the EU realise that it is in an enormous hole and stop digging?"

    -- Neither does ´Greek Cyprus´ recognize Kosovo

    --who are you criticizing ?

    --the ´dimwits´you referred to, also allowed Greece to blackmail the EU for Cyprus EU entry !

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    It doesnt matter who gets invited into the EU, the EU is nothing more then a sinking empire, where the left and right fight and the voting process for governing bodies is a buddy system. There is no unity here, and only country that has benefited has been germany. EU will collapse and so will the currency, we all know most countries dont even want to be a part of the eu anymore. it doesnt work

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    @61 Agreed. Serbian membership will be of no benefit whatsoever to the EU. Hopefully the EU will have collapsed by the time Serbia has actually met all membership criteria so we can be spared yet another bottomless money pit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    I disagree:
    USA's advantage was everyone else was in ashes. No one today has this "advantage".

    "The EU is becoming more tightly integrated and will likely be a federation within a few decades."
    Agreed, but it'll be defunct in 5- years. Just as the USSR was.

    USA's federation was voluntary, it required a brutal civil war to crush this concept. Do you want that for the EU?

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    53 Sally

    " so the owners take your wallets and turn them upside down!"

    Better stay in our den of viters and let the banksters here do it instead?

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Is Europe in ashes right now? No. Is it in recession? Yes. Just as the US was before the war.

    The EU is becoming more tightly integrated and will likely be a federation within a few decades. It is already an economic superpower; I only hope it refrains from becoming a war machine like the US.

    The US has much worse debt than EU countries - when the dollar collapses things will get very bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Greece does NOT recognize Kosovo !

    -- "Greek journalist Takis Michas covered the war in the Balkans during the 1990s and saw at first hand the effects of Greek support for Serbia ..he follows Greek-Serbian relations and tackles the question of how the Greek people could ignore Serbian aggression and war crimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Surely Russia has more of a claim to be being Europe than Turkey more of it's land is in Europe in percentage terms. Don't hear the European elites talk about inviting them though?

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    One cant but help admire Norway and its people. I believe 2 different governments on 2 separate occaisions have tried to persuade their voters to join the gang,To those govts. credit they gave the people referendums to decide for themselves.
    Twice the people voted with their middle fingers.
    All that oil and fish and nobody to share it with, tut tut Norway, thats not how the game is played!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Serbia, one of the main countries for people trafficking and drugs smuggling. What is the value to europe to include serbia. The rule of law there hangs barely by a thread. They have generations of war criminals and plain criminals. Its also where most cars stolen in the UK end up. There are good people there just trying to get by but that society needs social progress before we open our boarders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Why on earth would Serbia or Kosovo want to join the EU? Can't they see what a disaster it's been for Greece, Portugal and Spain (and in various ways for France, Germany and the UK too). No doubt they've been taken in by all the pro-EU propaganda, but they will regret it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    "NO to Serbia membership". Why should many UK, TAX £, go to Serbia. Russia had sense. When the cold war ended they DUMPED Eastern Europe, as it cost too much $, to up keep. The eastern European countries were a buffer for Russia in case the West, Attacked, Now they don't want them & nor do we.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Come on, how Serbia (or anyone) can seriously be wanting to join a den of vipers is beyond me.

    Imagine going to a night club in Cyprus, run by Germans promising you "free" drinks all night. Now, the night club runs out of money in the till, so the owners take your wallets and turn them upside down!
    Serbia, do not enter the German nightclub.

    You've been warned.


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