11 years ago, on the 5th of October 2000 Serbia ousted Slobodan Milosevic's regime. Again in October, 11 years later, the country seems to have a real chance to show that during those years it has made enough efforts to win EU candidate status.
Late on Tuesday Reuters reported, quoting unnamed EU diplomats, that next month Serbia would get the promised status but would have to wait before receiving a recommendation for an actual start of accession talks.
"It's quite sure that the Commission will recommend a candidate status for Serbia but will set conditions for opening negotiations," one of Reuters’s sources said.
According to another top diplomat, the Commission could split its recommendation into two parts. "Serbia has made an overall positive effort on reforms ... the problem is the Kosovo issue," the diplomat said.
Milica Delevic, director of the state European Integration Office in Belgrade on Wednesday went even further and pointed out a date, when Serbia could expect the Commission’s recommendation – October 12. According to her it was possible the Commission to set also a date for the start of accession negotiations but under additional conditions, which include continuing the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
The negotiations with Kosovo, which Serbia still refers to as a province of its own, are still in a stalemate after having been delayed again because of the recent tension in northern Kosovo. As a result of the ongoing dispute over border crossings 16 ethnic Serbs and four Nato peacekeepers were hurt in clashes.
The European Commission said in response that Belgrade was not ready to continue with the dialogue. According to a statement, released after the meeting of EU mediator Robert Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker, and the Belgrade negotiator Borislav Stefanovic the dialogue would continue when Serbia is ready for that. “The aim of the dialogue remains to be improving the life conditions of the people and creating conditions for the European integration of the two countries,” Cooper was quoted as saying in the statement by Serbian media.
And while, according to him, the border dispute was not on the agenda of the latest round of the Pristina-Belgrade talks, Borislav Stefanovic said that the negotiators did not want to hear any of Serbia’s proposals to solve the border problems. “We have not abandoned neither the dialogue, nor the EU integration, or our people in Kosovo”, Stefanovic said, adding that “the dialogue should continue once the current situation is solved”.
He declined to give a timeframe in which this could happen, so obviously the recommendations of the Commission next month will depend on how the relations between Serbia and Kosovo will unfold in the coming weeks.