Croatia, and Britain, block Serbia's EU accession talks

EU member-states on Monday once again failed to agree to open chapter 23 in Serbia's EU accession negotiations.

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)

This has been prevented once again prevented by Croatia, and by Britain.

These two countries have not given their consent today to open chapter 23 by June 30. Croatia did so "for essential reasons" - while Britain's reasons were "technical," related to "the situation with leaving the EU," Beta reported.

The agency said it was told this by officials at the Council of Ministers of EU in Brussels after the meeting of the Working Group for Enlargement and Countries Negotiating Accession to the EU (COELA) - who "underlined that the only reliable thing for now is that the Intergovernmental Conference EU-Turkey, which will open new chapters in negotiations with Ankara, will be held on June 30."

"Some, although uncertain, possibility still exists that new chapters could be opened with Serbia, too", explained the officials, adding that Croatia "has not abandoned its opposition to Serbia's regional jurisdiction for war crimes, or on its demands for greater rights of the Croat minority in Serbia."

However, "there has been some progress in the discussion - so perhaps something more could be accomplished by June 30 when COELA and the committee of permanent representatives and ambassadors of the EU meet, who could reach a decision about it."

Officials in Brussels noted that the intergovernmental conference with Ankara was scheduled "much earlier" as a part of the overall EU-Turkey agreement on the resolution of the migrant crisis.

In the absence of unanimity necessary to open chapters 23 and 24 in negotiations with Serbia, the issue could be postponed for July or September of this year.

Earlier in the day, Tanjug reported that EU member states would on Monday once again try to reach consensus on a common negotiating position for chapter 23 in accession talks with Serbia.

As the agency learned from diplomatic sources before a new meeting of the Working Group for Enlargement and Countries Negotiating Accession to the EU (COELA), Serbia lacked the approval of six member countries.

Among them was the Netherlands, which as the current country presiding over the EU, and one that should complete the consensus.

Sources from the Dutch presidency said that some of the five remaining countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Croatia and the United Kingdom) announced giving their consent to the draft negotiating position for Chapter 23, but that two remain opposed. One of these, as Tanjug was told in Brussels, has "a substantial" problem, while the other's problem is of "technical nature".

Although the diplomatic circles in Brussels expected a declaration signed recently by Serbia's prime minister and Croatia's president to speed up Zagreb's approval to open the chapter, "that did not happen up to this moment."

Meanwhile, for technical reasons related to the Brexit referendum, the working group failed to receive the official approval from London when it comes to further steps towards Serbia's accession negotiations.

Circles close to the EU Council said that it was unclear at this time how the United Kingdom will behave when it comes to the technical decisions related to EU enlargement processes.

According to announcements, COELA should meet again on June 30, when a meeting of ambassadors of member states (COREPER) has also been scheduled.

Tanjug learned from EU diplomatic sources that it is "still technically possible" to reach consensus that day on a draft common European negotiating position for chapter 23 and give the green light to open chapters 23, 24 and 5 at the meeting of ambassadors.

In that case, it would be technically feasible to organize the Intergovernmental Conference the same day, at which Serbia would open these chapters and make a new step towards membership in the EU.

Otherwise, Slovakia, who will on July 1 take over the EU presidency, announced that opening new chapters with Serbia will be "one of the priorities of its EU's enlargement policy."


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