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news 13 May 13

German MEP Backs Serbia EU Start Date

A German member of the European Parliament has called on EU to grant Serbia a date for the start of EU accession talks. 

Florian Franze
BIRN
Belgrade

Knut Fleckenstein, a member of the European Parliament's Foreign Committee, said that Serbia should get the EU start date in June.

“In order [for the EU and Germany] to remain credible, we have to open membership talks with Serbia as soon as possible, and I expect the Council to do so,” Fleckenstein told Balkan Insight.

He was referring to the EU’s pledge to grant Serbia the date for accession talks if it reaches a deal with Kosovo. Germany in particular has insisted on the matter being resolved.

On April 19, Kosovo and Serbia reached a landmark agreement on normalizing relations.

Two days later, the European Commission recommended that “negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened with Serbia”.

The European Commission recommendation is to be submitted to the European Council, after which the Council may grant Serbia an accession talks date in June. Serbia obtained EU candidate status in March 2012.

Fleckenstein cautioned that “the agreement now has to be put into action, otherwise it is not worth the paper it was written on”.

At the same time, he that the feedback on Serbian progress in key fields such as corruption is “generally positive” within his party and in the European Parliament.

Furthermore he pledged that the Social Democrats will fight to maintain the share for EU Pre-accession Assistance and exchange programmes in the ongoing negotiations on the EU-budget from 2014-2020. As a candidate country, Serbia already has access to these programmes.

Fleckenstein urged cooperation between German and Serbian social democratic parties in order “to support Serbia in its transition towards a fully functional democracy”.

Four months before German general elections, polls put the ruling conservative-liberal coalition of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and its junior partner, the Free Democratic Party, FDP,  at 43 per cent, leading the opposition Social Democratic – Green by 4 per cent.

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