European Leaders Greet EU’s Green Light to Serbia

European officials have welcomed the recommendations of the Commission to grant Serbia a start date for accession talks, following conclusion of a landmark deal with Kosovo.

BIRNBelgrade 23 April 2013

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that the Commission’s recommendations to open negotiations on EU membership with Serbia – and open negotiations for a stability pact with Kosovo – marked a common step towards a European future.

“I would like to pay tribute to the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo for their courage and vision. I am honoured to have been able to contribute to this process,” Ashton said on Monday, referring to the historic deal reached between the two governments.

On Monday, the European Commission said it now recommended that “negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened with Serbia.

“The Commission considers that Serbia has met the key priority of taking steps towards a visible and sustainable improvement of relations with Kosovo,” the joint report to the European Parliament and the Council said.

The move comes after officials from Belgrade and Pristina agreed on the future of Serb-run northern Kosovo in the tenth round of EU-led talks last Friday.

The draft agreement envisions that the local Serbian community will choose their own police commanders, while the composition of the police force will reflect the ethnic structure on the ground. The draft also proposes more judges coming from the Serbian minority.

The EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, said Serbia and Kosovo had proved they can both focus on the future rather than staying entangled in the past.

“Our recommendations today are therefore clear: both Serbia and Kosovo deserve to move on decisively in their EU perspectives,” Fule said.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt praised Ashton for her successful handling of the talks that had resulted in an agreement.

“Now, as we know from every other case of diplomacy, implementation can be difficult, but I am not very worried,” said Bildt.

Jelko Kacin, European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia, urged Belgrade to concentrate on implementing the deal.

“Consistent implementation of the agreements reached so far and continuation of the [Belgrade-Pristina] dialogue on energy and telecommunications is essential for the positive development of events to be maintained and continued,” Kacin said in a statement.

Germany’s Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, also stressed the importance of implementation of the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina.

Ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, he “congratulated Serbia and Kosovo on the results of their talks.

“Germany wants the agreement implemented,” he noted. He also commended Ashton for her successful involvement in the talks on behalf of the EU.

“If there can be more stability in that part of Europe and better relations between Belgrade and Pristina, then it is good news for both those countries and Europe,” Westerwelle noted.