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07/12/2016

Serbia seeks more EU accession talks despite Croatia opposition

Enlargement

Serbia seeks more EU accession talks despite Croatia opposition

Serbia’s chief negotiator on Tuesday (10 May) called on the European Union to continue accession talks in June as planned, criticising the opposition from Balkans neighbour Croatia.

“Technically speaking, yes, they (Croatia) are blocking… they are stopping the possibility to go further,” Tanja Miscevic told AFP.

“I am not going to call it a blockade because they never formally vetoed something…. But they are doing something else, they are not giving the so-called ‘green light’ on those documents,” she said.

Croatia is opposed to opening negotiations on several key chapters — the judicial system, fundamental rights and security. Talks with a candidate country on any chapter need the approval of all 28 EU member states.

The hurdles, according to Zagreb, include Belgrade’s cooperation with The Hague-based UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and political representation of minorities.

Tensions grow over Serbian accession talks

Croatia’s refusal to agree to the opening of Chapter 23 in Serbia’s EU accession negotiations has heightened tensions between the two countries, which, over the past six months, have grown significantly cooler. EurActiv Serbia reports.

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Serbia and Croatia have had an uneasy relationship, particularly since the 1991-1995 war when Belgrade backed Croatian Serbs who were against declaring independence from Yugoslavia. The conflict claimed 20,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

Croatia became the newest member of the EU in 2013. Serbia started accession talks in January 2014, but did not open the first chapters for negotiations before December last year.

Miscevic said Serbia has been working on reforms as required for EU membership, but that the country needs to know there “is light at the end of the tunnel, whenever the end of the tunnel is”,

On 24 April, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić won early elections that he said were called to get a clear mandate to press ahead with the EU reforms.

“I am a very dedicated Euro optimist… but I am also at the same time extremely frustrated,” Miscevic said.

Steinmeier: No new conditions for Serbia accession

On Tuesday (28 April), German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier reassured Serbia that there would be no new conditions for the candidate country’s progress toward EU membership. EurActiv Serbia reports.

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“It took us two years to open the first chapters for the negotiations,” she noted.

Miscevic however added that she would not ask the European Commission to put pressure on Croatia.

“It is not up to us… It is up to 27 member states to tell the 28th member state that actually they are wrong,” she said.

The EU has said there will be no further enlargement of the bloc until 2020.