General Affairs Council
Decision on Serbia’s candidacy postponed
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Tuesday 06 December 2011
The member states’ ministers could not reach an agreement on granting Serbia EU candidate status as they met in Brussels, on 5 December. After a long round of talks that ended late in the evening, they decided to refer the matter to the European Council of 9 December, where the member states’ leaders will be required to obtain unanimity on the country’s candidacy. As
Europoliticsreported, on 2 December, the member states remain divided on the issue. On 28 November, German soldiers suffered injuries during a NATO operation aimed at tearing down Serbian barricades in the North of Kosovo. “The Council attaches great importance to EULEX and KFOR being unhindered in the execution of their mandates,” an official statement said after the ministers’ meeting. Serbia and Kosovo agreed, on 2 December, on the joint management of their border crossings, a move that was welcomed by the 27 national representatives. “The Council reiterates its full support for the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and welcomes progress to date, particularly on customs, acceptance of university diplomas, civil registry, free movement of persons, cadastre and IBM,” the ministers said in a statement. According to Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, Poland’s Europe minister who chaired the meeting, “there is an expectation that this improvement in relations between Serbia and Kosovo is an unstoppable process that will go forward”. He added that “every day counts” - noting that the breakthrough came “pretty late”. Serbs in North Kosovo started removing the barricades in the region, on 5 December, in an attempt to convince EU member states of their readiness to meet the EU’s criteria, but when asked whether the 27 national leaders would grant Serbia candidate status on 9 December, Dowgielewicz said he was not able to give “a straight answer, yes or no”. “It is now up to the European Council to make the final decision,” Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle added.
“POSITIVE MOOD” ON MONTENEGRO
Another key point on the ministers’ agenda, on 5 December, was the fixing of a date for the opening of membership negotiations with Montenegro. The Council concluded that “Montenegro has achieved a high degree of compliance with the membership criteria, notably the political criteria, and has further progressed towards establishing a market economy”. “Montenegro is in a position to take on the obligations of membership in the medium term in most of the
acquisfields,” the statement added. Montenegro is likely to be given a date for the start of its membership negotiations on 9 December. Dowgielewicz noted that the mood of the talks between the 27 foreign affairs ministers, on 5 December, was very positive.
While the Council noted that “the overall level of preparedness and integration to meet EU
acquisrequirements remains high” in Iceland, the ministers noted that “Turkey has still not made progress towards the necessary normalisation of its relations with the Republic of Cyprus” and regretted “Turkey’s statements to freeze its relations with the EU Presidency during the second half of 2012,” as Cyprus will be in charge of the Presidency of the EU. Turkish threats to Cyprus are “unacceptable”, Füle said. The talks between Turkey and the EU over accession have been blocked in the past months, and a new ‘positive agenda’ was created by the European Commission to continue bilateral cooperation on other areas. “The agenda could cover a broad range of areas of common interest, including political reforms, foreign policy dialogue, alignment with the EU
acquis, visas, mobility and migration, trade, energy, the fight against terrorism and participation in EU programmes,” the Council said.
The General affairs Council ended its meeting, on 5 December, by formally approving Croatia’s admission to the EU as its 28th member state. Officials from Croatia and from the 27 EU member states will sign the Accession Treaty on 9 December in Brussels. “The Council looks forward to welcoming Croatia as a new member as of 1 July 2013,” the ministers said in a statement.