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If it meets all the EU criteria, Serbia may be able to get a date for membership negotiations by July 2013, a senior EU official tells Balkan Insight.
The European Commission's latest opinion of Serbia’s progress will not be as positive as the one in 2011 - so Serbia is unlikely to get a start date for membership talks this October, a senior European Commission official has told Balkan Insight.
“We have to have in mind that little progress has been made in Belgrade-Pristina talks, and... Serbia was in election mode, so some EU reforms were delayed, which will affect the upcoming progress report,” the source said.
“But we have received assurances from the new government that, beside negotiations with Pristina, internal reforms will continue, so, if everything goes as agreed, the earliest Serbia could get a date is next July,” the same source added.
Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, on Tuesday said at the UN that Serbia will implement all agreements reached in EU-led talks with Kosovo and will continue on its path towards EU membership.
The new head of the government’s EU integration office, Milan Pajevic, meanwhile says that the country can meet EU criteria, so a start date for EU negotiations next summer is realistic.
However, a member of the Serbian parliament’s Council for EU Integration, Lazlo Varga, told the Belgrade daily newspaper Politika that Serbia’s path towards the EU had been slowed by the lack of progress in negotiations with Kosovo - the former Serbian province which declared independence in 2008 and which Serbia does not recognise.
Varga said it was unlikely that the negotiations with Kosovo can be completed in a few months, therefore the July 2013 date for a start to EU talks appears questionable. Varga said he did not believe that Serbia will start negotiations before December 2013.
Following the release of a positive opinion, or "avis", in October 2011, the European Council postponed a decision on Serbia's candidacy for March 2012, citing lack of progress in normalisation of ties with Kosovo.
Serbia then obtained official EU candidate status in March 2012. But obtaining a start date for negotiations is bigger step, requiring consistent implementation of reforms and control of their implementation.
To keep its reform policy credible for investors, the government must find common ground with the IMF and look for a new arrangement, experts say.