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Serbia will have to normalize relations with Kosovo before negotiating with the EU

(BRUSSELS2) In its “opinion” on the accession of new Balkan countries to the European Union, the European Commission recommended granting the status of candidate country to Serbia but also clearly set certain conditions for the opening negotiations with the country inheriting Yugoslavia, in particular to pacify its relations with its neighborhood, notably Kosovo and allow the EULEX (rule of law) mission to work without fear in northern Kosovo.

Conditions set

The Commission document specifies that the negotiations will be opened " as soon as significant progress is made in several key areas which are five in number. Let us quote in particular " the normalization of relations with Kosovo, in compliance with the principles set out in the Association and Stabilization Agreement " and an " active cooperation with the EULEX mission with the aim that it can carry out its functions in all parts of Kosovo (nb: the north of Kosovo is thus targeted), specifies the document.

Several other conditions are specified: full respect for the principles of regional cooperation; provisions of the Energy Community Treaty; solutions found for telecommunications and mutual recognition of diplomas. The Commission also specifies that Serbia must continue “ to implement in good faith all agreements finalized ».

A revision of the Copenhagen criteria

The European executive thus inscribes in “technical” terms the political maxim that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had posed during a visit to Belgrade at the end of August: no accession of Serbia to the EU as long as it did not solve the problems of Kosovo. A position which is not isolated in Europe. Most European countries do not wish to repeat the Cypriot episode, with the problem of separation of the island currently unresolved. And many of them are not unhappy to see the entry into the Union of one more member delayed.

In doing so, the Commission is unsaidly reforming the “Copenhagen criteria” setting the road map for countries wishing to join the Union by adding a criterion which seemed implicit but which today is better to specify expressly: live in peace with your neighborhood and have normalized your relationships and other disputes. A fairly logical development all in all. The Copenhagen criteria (text here) are not intangible and do not have intangible constitutional force. They were, in fact, set for the accession of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Nothing therefore prevents orienting them differently depending on the characteristics of the countries concerned. The tumultuous past of the Balkans as well as certain other countries (Georgia, Ukraine, etc.) which could knock on the door of the European Union tomorrow logically imposes this addition.

Good on Foreign Affairs, bad on Justice and the Interior

In terms of transcription of the community acquis by Serbia, the Commission's report delivers a “Good” for certain matters such as defense, security and foreign affairs policy as well as external relations; “If it continues its efforts, Serbia should in the medium term have the capacity to fulfill the required conditions » in these areas. On the other hand, it delivers an “Insufficient” rating for four subjects including fundamental and judicial rights and justice and internal affairs. “ Serbia must make considerable and continuous efforts to align itself with the Community acquis »

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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