Serbia opening first chapters in EU membership negotiations

Serbia will on Monday open the first two of the 35 chapters in its negotiations to join the EU as a member.

Source: Beta

This will come almost two years after the country formally launched accession negotiations with the organization.

The intergovernmental conference this evening in Brussels will see the opening of chapter 35 on normalization of relations with Pristina, and chapter 32 on financial control, and the two sides will exchange negotiating positions, Beta reported.

A delegation of Serbia - consisting of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and the minister without portfolio in charge of EU integration, Jadranka Joksimovic, will take part in the meeting, along with representatives of the European Commission - Foreign Minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn, whose country currently presides over the EU, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, as well as representatives of 28 member countries.

The Beta agency said it was told by EU sources that the Committee of Permanent Representatives, ambassadors of EU member states, had fully agreed starting points for chapters 32 and 35.

The negotiation procedure for Serbia is most similar to that which applies for Montenegro, as the rule has been introduced that chapters 23 and 24, the judiciary, security and human rights will be among the first to open for these two countries and close among the last, and that any delay in the two chapters can affect the entire course of the negotiations.

Serbia, however, has an additional "specificity," said the agency, and that is chapter 35 which monitors normalization of relations with Pristina, that will have the same significance as chapters 23 and 24. These chapters, as expected in both in Brussels and Belgrade, should be opened in the first half of 2016.

Aleksandar Vucic and Ivica Dacic said on the eve of the opening of the first chapter that the Serbian side was "absolutely ready" and wanted to complete negotiations by the end of 2019.

Officials at the European Commission agreed during the screening stage that the Serbian authorities were well prepared and that the Serbian state administration was capable of bearing the burden of long and complex negotiations.

The length of these talks, however, is difficult to predict as it depends on the readiness of the country, alignment with the EU, the speed of fulfilling the conditions set for opening or closing of chapters, as well as on possible bilateral disputes with EU members, who can block negotiations, since each new step is decided on by all members.

Croatia, the newest EU member, negotiated for six years. Montenegro's negotiations launched in 2012 and so far the country has opened about 20 chapters and provisionally closed two.

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