“Serbia likely to get platform instead of EU talks date”

BELGRADE -- Serbia will in June get the green light for the “pre-phase of the negotiations”, which is something that has never been done before, a daily has learned.

According to daily Večernje novosti, European leaders will most likely not give Serbia a date for the start of the EU accession negotiations in June but they will approve a beginning of the drafting of a negotiating platform.

Such a decision would be some kind of precedent because it has never been done in the EU enlargement process before. Večernje novosti writes that differences among EU members would that way be reconciled and Germany’s position that it is still early for a concrete date would be satisfied. It would also recognize Serbia’s obvious efforts in the talks with Priština.

Serbian government's EU Integration Office Director Milan Pajević told the daily that this “middle solution” was most realistic at the moment.

“In that case negotiations would not be formally open but technical work on their preparation would begin, which is even more important for Serbia. The European Commission would determined specific guidelines and so-called screening of harmonization of our regulations with European ones would start,” he explained.

In that case Serbia would be completely ready to start the negotiations once the date is officially set, which could be six to nine months after the work on the platform starts.

The issue should be resolved in the next several weeks, by April 14 at the latest – two days before the EC will file a report on Serbia’s progress. A key part of the document would be EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton’s report on progress in the Belgrade-Priština dialogue.

The daily has learned that she and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule should visit the region by the end of March and encourage Serbia and Kosovo, as well as reaching of a final agreement on a community of Serb municipalities in Kosovo.

Fule’s Spokesman Peter Stano could not say whether an exception would again be made in Serbia’s case.

“It is too early to speculate on date and formulations of decisions. European Council’s conclusions from December are very clear. We have been asked to prepare a report and the process is underway,” Stano told Večernje novosti.