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news 04 Dec 12

Start Date for EU-Serbia Talks Recommended

The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has advised the European Council to give Belgrade a start date for membership talks.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday urged the European Council to "set a date for opening accession talks with Serbia" as soon as possible.

"Serbia has never been closer to the opening of accession talks. It is within a hand's reach," the European Parliament rapporteur Jelko Kacin said.

Kacin welcomed recent progress in the EU-led dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, adding that the EU "must open a new chapter in relations with Serbia".

Serbia obtained EU candidate status in March and has been hoping to get a start date for accession talks by year's end.

Normalization of relations with Pristina is the key precondition for Serbia's further progress on the EU path.

Belgrade-Pristina talks started in Brussels in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence, which Serbia has vowed never to recognise.

So far, the two sides have reached deals on freedom of movement, university diplomas, regional representation and on trade. But not all the deals have been implemented.

The resolution called for the implementation of reached agreements and stressed that "the issue of missing persons [from the Kosovo conflict of the 1990s] must be included in the dialogue".

The document "welcomes the renewal of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue at a high political level and the readiness demonstrated in this light by the Serbian government".

This referred to the recent meetings in Brussels of the prime ministers of Kosovo and Serbia, Hashim Thaci and Ivica Dacic.

The document also welcomes Serbia's pledge to tackle shortcomings in the reform of the judiciary and to fight corruption and organized crime.

Eduard Kukan, head of the European Parliament's delegation for cooperation with Balkan countries, said recent verdicts by the Hague war crimes tribunal had posed a test for the Serbian leadership and people, noting that the Serbian leadership had reacted responsibly.

On November 17, the Hague Tribunal acquitted two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, of involvement in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at the forcible removal of the Serbian population from the Krajina regionduring the course of a Croatian Army operation codenamed "Oluja" ["Storm"] in 1995.

On November 29, the court acquitted Ramush Haradinaj, former Prime Minister of Kosovo, and his two co-defendants, Idriz Balaj and Lahi Brahimaj, of committing war crimes during the Kosovo conflict of the late 1990s. Both rulings were deeply unpopular in Serbia.

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