On March 2nd, the European Council announced that Serbia has been granted European Union candidate country status. This is an important step forward for Serbia, and a testament to the hard work and determination of the people of Serbia and the government of President Boris Tadić.
In order to achieve candidate status and make progress toward European integration, Serbia has had to undertake key reforms, including economic restructuring, and make progress in the EU-led dialogue with Kosovo. Serbia and Kosovo recently came to agreement on managing their joint border crossings and on Kosovo’s representation at regional fora. Also, within the past year, Serbia arrested and extradited to The Hague fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžić, two major figures wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Candidate status is an initial step on the long road to European Union membership, and a date has yet to be set for the opening of accession negotiations. Throughout the entire accession process, Serbia must continue to work toward meeting EU political and economic criteria for membership.
In order to meet these criteria, Serbia will need to continue addressing issues such as judicial reform and corruption and will need to adopt certain legislation in keeping with European Union law. This includes, for example, rules dealing with traffic and environmental protection, as well as human rights. The EU will look for Serbia to continue its dialogue with Kosovo on issues such as cross-border telecommunications and energy and implement agreements already made.
Serbia’s progress toward European Union membership is important not just for the future of Serbia, but also for Kosovo and for the entire region.
“The ... announcement by the European Council that Serbia has been granted European Union candidate country status is an important step forward for Serbia’s future,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “I want to congratulate the leadership and the people of Serbia for their hard work, commitment and determination toward this goal.”