Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic has said his country could become an EU candidate by the end of this year.
Djelic said that this could happen if the country gets it candidacy questionnaire from the EU by mid spring and fills it out by the summer. The questionnaire aims to gage whether a country qualifies for candidate status.
“It’s been a while that we have been getting ready [to fill the questionnaire] and I am convinced that we will finish the job in record time. We already have the questions that were given to our neighbors before in our hands. Ministries received before the New Year the Montenegrin questionnaire and they are instantly analysing it and preparing the necessary data,” he said.
The country’s President Boris Tadic officially submitted Serbia’s application to join the EU on 22 December. The application will be placed on the agenda of the EU Council of Ministers. If approved, it will be forwarded to the European Commission, which will then send Serbia the questionnaire with some 3000 questions. The response to the candidacy application will be issued after Belgrade completes the questionnaire.
However, when it comes to membership negotiations, Djelic said that it is not likely that they would start before Serbia completes its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, as it was the case with Croatia. He went on to say that Serbia “should certainly look to avoid the fate of Macedonia, which has had candidate status since 2005, and is yet to start negotiations”.
Ealier this month, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou voiced his support for Serbia’s and the Western Balkans’ integration into the EU, citing 2014 as a possible target date. Djelic said that it is important that Greece has received Italy’s support, “and to some degree Austria’s”, but stressed that “the timetable is on the edge of technical possibilities”.
When asked whether recognising Kosovo’s independence and NATO membership are preconditions for Serbia to join the union, Djelic said that US Vice President Joseph Biden and French President Nicola Sarkozy were clear in saying that membership to the Alliance is not a requirement. And given that the EU does not have a united view on Kosovo, Djelic said it is in the interest of both the EU and Serbia that the process of EU membership and Kosovo’s status are kept separate.