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News 24 Sep 15

Hahn to Offer EU support for Serbia "Hotspot"

Enlargement Commissioner's Friday’s visit to Serbia is likely to focus on Serbia's ability to cope with the large number of refugees coming mainly from the Middle East.

Marija Ristic
Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic and EU comissioner Johannes Hahn. Photo courtesy of the EU delegation to Serbia

After EU heads meet on Wednesday, Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn is heading to Serbia on Friday to discuss the refugee crisis, after Serbia was marked a “hotspot” for refugees beside Italy, Greece and Turkey.

An EU diplomat told BIRN that Hahn will propose that Serbia increases the capacities of existing reception centres, and builds additional centres, which will be managed by Serbian authorities supported by the EU.

The EU will allocate some additional money for the purpose through the accession funds.

“It is clear that  Serbia need two-fold support: aid and advice to build up migration management and refugee support, and immediate help,” the EU  source said.

Serbia has poor capacities to deal with such a big number of migrants who are arriving daily, mainly across the border with Macedonia. 

According to some estimates, while around 2,000 people daily enter Serbia, Serbian has capacities to accommodate only around 800.

Also on his Friday's agenda will be relations between Croatia and Serbia, which have seriously detoriated since Croatia accused Serbia of sending refugees on purpose to Croatia after Hungary closed its border.

Croatia has now closed most border crossings with Serbia and has blocked transit of goods through the borders.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday wrote a protest letter to EU leaders, asking them to mediate and accusing Croatia of undermining the Stabilisation and Association Agreement Serbia signed with the EU in 2008.

On Wednesday evening, Serbia also decided to ban all Croatian goods and cargo vehicles from entering the country.

Hahn and the Serbian authorities will also be discussing Serbia’s progress towards the EU and a possible start to membership negotiations and opening the first chapters.

The European Council granted Serbia EU candidate status on March 1, 2012. In June 2013, the EU decided to open accession negotiations with Serbia, but no chapter has yet been opened.

Serbia's progress was conditioned on dialogue with Kosovo and  improvement in the area of rule of law. Last month German Chancellor Angela Merkel recommended the opening of chapters.

In August, Serbia also formed its team for negotiations with the EU. It is expected that Serbia will open its first chapter by the end of the year.

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