EU urges formation of pro-European government in Serbia

Foreign ministers would like to see the future Serbian government committed to a European course and urge further co-operation with the international community on Kosovo.

The Council declared on 22 January 2007 that it would like to see the “formation of a government committed to Serbia’s European course” soon, but also made it clear that it expected “constructive co-operation with the international community”.

Two issues currently dealt with by the international community are the discussions on the future status of Kosovo, but also the delivery of alleged war criminals to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari is to present his propositions on 26 January 2007, ahead of the difficult negotiations in the UN Security Council on the future status of Kosovo scheduled for March.

Foreign ministers further stated that the EU “remains ready to support Serbia in its European perspective”, underlining their intentions to keep the door open for accession. 

In separate discussions, the Council also agreed to take further steps to ease the embargo of the Turkish-ruled part of Northern Cyprus. Foreign ministers urged the adoption of a Commission regulation on trade conditions with Northern Cyprus “without delay”. Meanwhile, negotiations with Turkey in eight trade-related areas are suspended since December 2006, following Turkey’s refusal to open trade to Cyprus.

The meeting also paved the way for negotiating a new enhanced agreement between the EU and Ukraine. Negotiations will be launched on 6 February 2007 in Kiev. Ministers “acknowledged Ukraine’s European aspirations” to become a candidate for membership, but underlined their intention to keep relations with Ukraine within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn stated: "Serbia has tremendous economic and intellectual potential that is just waiting to be released in pursuit of the country's European future. Thanks to its institutional capacity, once concluded, Serbia should be able to implement the Stabilisation and Association Agreement effectively and quickly, and then take the next steps on its European journey."

EPP group member and chairperson of the Parliament's delegation for South-Eastern Europe, Doris Pack said: "Even though it is regrettable that Serbian Ultra-Nationalists led by the suspected war-criminal [Vojislav] Šešelj have gained 28.5%, it remains a fact that the democratic parties have won a two-thirds majority in the new Serbian Parliament."

Liberal MEP and ALDE group leader Graham Watson said: "While the EU's relations with Serbia will be determined by their co-operation with ICTY, the long-term goal remains for a democratic Serbia to take its rightful place in the Union." He added:"We need a signal from the new Serbian government that it will cooperate with the Hague tribunal and allow the Stability and Association Agreement to get off the ground."

Terry Davis, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, stated: "The results show that most Serbian citizens prefer a better future to a recycled past. Now the challenge is to form a stable and effective government which will be operational as quickly as possible. Time is precious because the Serbian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will begin in May. As the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, I am ready to discuss the priorities of the Serbian Chairmanship as soon as the new government is in place."

Even though the radicals won most votes in Serbia's general elections (EURACTIV 22/01/07), two-thirds of the seats in parliament will lean towards democracy. Therefore, a group of pro-European reform-oriented parties is likely to form the new government. 

Elections were overshadowed by the unresolved status of Kosovo, which has been under international civil and military administration since the 1999 conflict.

The EU also wants Serbia to fully co-operate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague and deliver alleged war criminals.

  • On 26 January, UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari is to present a plan for the future status of Kosovo.
  • A UN Security Council decision on its future status is expected in March or April 2007.

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