Serbia "could join EU in 2020," says EU representative

BELGRADE -- Head of the EU Delegation in Belgrade Michael Davenport believes that Serbia could become an EU member state in 2020.

(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)

He notes that it was realistic that the first chapters would be opened in early 2015.

The EU official underscores that it is the normalization, and not the recognition of Kosovo's independence, that is important in Serbia's negotiations with the EU and relations with Priština.

"The pace at which you will advance along the EU path will depend on Serbia's efforts, political will to carry out reforms and capacities of your government to conduct negotiations. That requires that a negotiating framework be formed as soon as possible, and in that case, the goal to join the EU by 2020 would have a chance of success," Davenport says in an interview published in the Friday issue of the Belgrade-based daily Večernje Novosti.

Asked whether "Kosovo and the EU" are still two tracks, Davenport says that it is clear that provisions on the comprehensive normalization and a legally binding agreement will be very important in the negotiation process.

"The requirement for progress in the dialogue is being interpreted to a great extent as part of meeting the Copenhagen criteria for membership, that being regional cooperation," he explains.

Asked about the content of the legally-binding agreement, he notes that it is early to talk about that, adding that the deal will definitely have to reflect all issues regarding the comprehensive normalization.

One of the crucial areas is a consistent implementation of the agreement between Belgrade and Priština that they will not block each other's EU pathway, Davenport says.

When asked whether the recognition of Kosovo will be a requirement for Serbia's EU membership, Davenport notes that a comprehensive normalization is required, rather than recognition, adding that this is the stance of the European Council and all 28 member states.

He explains that chapter 35, "referring to the normalization of relations with Kosovo, will cover the implementation of the agreements reached to date on customs, integrated border management, cadastre, registries, cooperation with EULEX and continuation of comprehensive normalization."

"Prime ministers Dačić and Thaci agreed that additional agreements were needed in the process of normalization," he added.

Davenport believes that at the moment it is difficult to say what will be the criteria for the opening of other chapters.

"The screening for three chapters -23, 24, 32 has been completed, and now the expert missions of the European Commission are coming to Serbia. This will be taken as the basis for an action plan, which will be discussed with the Serbian government, and then these plans and their implementation will set the criteria for the opening of chapters," Davenport says.