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EU Gives Go Ahead For Serbian Candidacy Tough Work Ahead

Serbia gets the go ahead for candidacy but full fledged membership may wait till 2020.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 2/29/2012, 6:25 PM

Boris Tadic
Boris Tadic
Reuters

The EU Commission, taking time off from the financial issues that have preoccupied the organization, approved the candidate status of Serbia that will be ratified at the EU Council summit beginning Thursday.

Serbia received the nod thanks to its acceding to the demand for handing over alleged war criminals for trial at the Hague and reaching an agreement with Kosovo on the frontier and customs issue.

This is not going to be a fast track and maybe Serbia will be a full fledged member by 2020.

Another bitter pill for Serbia to swallow will be full recognition for Kosovo, something that Serbia has withheld up to now. This is definitely in the cards, as the EU will conduct parallel negotiations with Kosovo. As in the case of Romania and Bulgaria, there will also be tests of governmental reforms, transparency and anticorruption measures.

The go-ahead threatened to be highjacked by Romanian opposition. Romania was actually playing tit for tat against Holland. Holland pushed for the approval in return for Serbia's agreement to extradite wanted war criminals. Romania is fuming about Holland's veto on phasing in Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen framework allowing free and unrestricted travel within countries parties to the Schengen Treaty. Holland continues to veto including the two Balkan states, claiming they have not yet reined in organized crime.

Romania, therefore, raised the issue of the Romanian Vlach minority in Serbia. Serb President Boris Tadić claimed that Serbia would not accede to blackmail and force the Vlachs to declare themselves part of the Romanian national minority, in the face of opposition to the idea by many Vlachs.

To placate all the sides, the EU inserted the following piece of doubletalk: "The commission is of the view that, while the legal and institutional framework for respecting and protecting minorities is in place in Serbia, implementation needs to continue to be further improved. It will continue to closely monitor Serbia's efforts in this regard,"

Everybody was happy about the Serbian concessions and even about the decision to join the EU. Russia would like to see Serbia in its orbit, and quoted a spokesperson from the Serbian nationalist 1389 organization (named after the historic battle of Kosovo) that had staged protests against the government's "betrayal" in Kosovo.

A large majority of the Serbian people think that the Serbian Government is not representing their interests in a best way and the Serbian Government is controlled by the European Union and NATO alliance. The Serbian Government is very unpopular in Serbia.

The spokesperson thanked Russia for its aid to Serbia and expressed his hope for Vladimir Putin's victory.

I think it would be in the best interests of Serbia to make closest possible relations with the Russian Federation and Prime Minister Putin. And personally I have no doubts that Mr. Putin will win this election and I hope the relationships between Serbia and Russia will be as close as possible…It is the only solution for Serbia now.

This is Tadic's problem. He has already made concessions and he will have to show gains, or else the nationalists will be happy to reverse the process.