EU ministers forward Serbia's candidate bidSource: Tanjug
BRUSSELS -- The EU General Affairs Council decided in Luxembourg on Monday to forward Serbia's application for EU membership to the EC.
According to Tanjug's diplomatic sources, the conclusions of the General Affairs Council are that the agreement was reached on the condition that Serbia's cooperation be closely supervised.
The Council calls on Serbia to respect its obligations regarding the cooperation with the ICTY, that is to assist in the arrest of the remaining Hague fugitives Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić, which will be the most convincing proof that a full cooperation has been achieved, the statement reads.
EC's positive opinion is a precondition for the beginning of concrete talks on Serbia's EU accession.
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Đelić expressed pleasure Monday over the decision of European Union Council of Ministers to forward Serbia's candidacy for membership to the European Commission for analysis.
This opens the new era in the European integration process, he said.
The goal of Serbia is to open the negotiations about the accession to the EU immediately after receiving the candidate status, Đelić told the press in Luxembourg.
Belgrade will have to prove full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and realize important reforms in ten key sectors, Đelić emphasized.
Serbia would have to implement these reforms anyway, as they are not only pre-conditions for EU integration, but also for better life of the people, he said.
He also expressed satisfaction with the fact that the decision on candidacy has been passed unanimously.
Serbia is doing everything in its power to meet the condition set by the Netherlands and bring the cooperation with the ICTY to completion, he said.
Unity will be needed next year, when the ministers, presidents and prime ministers meet again to decide on candidate status, Đelić said.
If unity is achieved today, everything will be much easier next year, he said.
He also welcomed the provision contained in the EU Council of Ministers conclusions that the process of Serbia's EU integration cannot be halted until the European Commission presents its opinion.
Decision rewards constructive attitude
Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said that the Monday decision by the EU General Affairs Council (GAC) to forward Serbia's candidacy to the European Commission (EC) for opinion is a very positive signal for Serbia which represents a reward for Belgrade's constructive attitude in the last few months.
This is a very good day for Serbia and also for Europe, Vanackere told the press in Luxembourg, adding that the EU on Monday clearly shown what it had already said in Sarajevo earlier - that the future of the entire Western Balkans is in the EU.
He also said that the decision to forward Serbia's application represents the continuation of the process the country launched about nine months ago, when it submitted its candidacy application.
The recent positive steps and the constructive attitude of the Serbian government regarding regional cooperation cannot go unrewarded, and therefore a clear positive message has to be sent to the country, he underlined.
Vanackere said that the Monday agreement between the EU member states was reached because it was clearly pointed out to everyone that the positive signal does not mean the EU will stop demanding from Serbia to fully cooperate with the Hague Tribunal, since this is a very important condition for every next step Serbia will be making towards the EU.
Vanackere said that the EU is calling on the Serbian government to continue working on establishing full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Vanackere said the differences with the Netherlands regarding the issue were resolved through dialogue.
The Belgian EU presidency has for the past few weeks worked a lot to persuade all EU member countries to reach an agreement on the issue that it satisfied with the result achieved, he added.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Monday expressed his satisfaction with the decision of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council to forward Serbia's application to the European Commission for analysis and, in particular, with the positive wording of the decision.
I am very much satisfied that a better wording was achieved for the forwarding of Serbia's application to the European Commission, said Bildt, adding that it is up to Serbia to work on technical aspects and up to the Commission to prepare its opinion.
We shall return to this issue in not so distant future, Bildt told reporters after the meeting.
This is an important message on the importance of the process of European integrations not only to Serbia but also to the region as a whole, said Bildt.