Serbia starts negotiations to join EU

BRUSSELS -- EC Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed in Brussels on Tuesday the Serbian delegation led by Prime Minister Ivica Dačić.

(Beta/AP)
(Beta/AP)

The delegation has begun negotiations with the EU on the country's future membership in the organization.

The intergovernmental conference was taking place at the European Council in Brussels, where Serbia was represented by Dačić, his first deputy, Aleksandar Vučić, Minister without Portfolio in charge of EU integration Branko Ružić, and head of the Serbian negotiating team, Tanja Miščević.

EU was represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Evangelos Venizelos, Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule, permanent representatives of member states and several EU foreign ministers.

This meeting was largely ceremonial.

The negotiating framework of the EU was first be presented during the conference, and then the negotiating platform of Serbia.

During the meeting, which officials said earlier would last from 45 to 60 minutes, Fule presented to Serbian officials the negotiating framework. The plan, which was approved by top officials of the EU, is the plan which will be used in negotiations with Serbia in the coming years.

The plan means that Serbia must implemented comprehensive reforms in all segments and includes the full normalization of relations with Kosovo. It is these relations that will be a key measure of success for Serbia on its path towards EU membership.

"Entirely new chapter"

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso met eith Serbian Prime MinisterIvica Dačić and First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić ahead of the first Intergovernmental Conference.

In a statement after the meeting, Barroso said that the conference, which opens Serbia's EU accession negotiations, "is the start of an entirely new chapter in our relations and a major success," and added:

"I commend Serbia for its reform efforts and for the progress made over the past years. The citizens of Serbia have strong European aspirations, and we will continue to support Serbia to make progress, step by step, on its European path."

Barroso "expressed appreciation for the courageous and consistent efforts made by the Serbian government in the past months in the normalization of relations with Kosovo before and after the historic April agreement."

He also underlined the challenges for Serbia ahead on European path in the key areas of rule of law, including the reform of the judiciary, the fight against corruption and against organized crime, public administration reform, independence of key institutions, media freedom, anti-discrimination and protection of minorities.