EU-Serbia: EU accession, but not overnight

23 April 2013 – Presseurop Die Presse, EUobserver.com

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“Berlin and Paris put the brakes on Serbian accession to the EU,” headlines Die Presse, in the wake of a European Commission decision to recommend the opening of accession negotiations with Belgrade and association negotiations with Pristina — a decision that closely followed the signing of an agreement on the normalisation of relations between between Serbia and its former province.

The next step will be to set a date for the start of negotiations, which will likely take some time. Between now and then, “everything that has been agreed must be implemented,” pointed out Germany’s Guido Westerwelle at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on April 22. On that occasion, notes Die Presse

… it was obvious that EU heavyweights like Germany and France will not bow to pressure for the rapid launch of negotiations with Serbia.

Although it does not guarantee that “Serbia’s accession is only a matter of time” — which, according to Die Presse, is the view in Brussels — the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, signed under the auspices of the Union, nonetheless offers what the EUobserver believes to be tangible proof of the utility of the European External Action Service (EEAS). It has also given —

Catherine Ashton the kind of diplomatic victory she so badly needed to show the added value of the (EEAS) as a new EU foreign policy actor. […] The agreement between Belgrade and Pristina presents a clear-cut and resounding diplomatic success for the EEAS, which will enable it to dispel some of the criticism and questions about the value added by the new European diplomatic service. [...] It sends a strong signal to the countries in the region, but also the UN, US, Russia, China, and other global players that the EU is serious about stabilising its immediate neighbourhood, and a worthy laureate of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

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