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Shake hands and tear gas

Europe, Beograd
14.12.2015
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
EU opens Serbia's first membership negotiation chapters
Serbia's negotiations on EU membership began in earnest on Monday with the opening of the country's first two accession chapters in a move aimed at rewarding Belgrade for improving relations with Kosovo.
GALLERY
Brussels (dpa) - Serbia and its erstwhile breakaway province have made important progress towards normalizing their relations, following a brief war in 1999, during years of talks overseen by the European Union. Both have been offered closer EU ties in return.
European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn (L), Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (C) and Foreign Minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn (R) at the start of an EU-Serbia intergovernmental accession conference, in Brussels, Belgium, 14 December 2015.

"This opening is a decisive step towards the EU," said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency. It would not have been possible without the "courageous decisions" taken by Belgrade, he added.

"This is an important and big day for us, one of those days when we are writing the pages of our history," said Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, following talks in Brussels. "We do not have to dream dreams any more about the EU. All we have to do is work hard."

Tear gas at Kosovo"s parliament
During a plenary session at Kosovo"s parliament in Pristina, Kosovo, 14 December 2015, opposition lawmakers threw tear gas. Kosovo"s opposition political parties protest against the agreements that has been reached in Brussels during the EU-brokered dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

The chapters opened Monday cover financial control and the delicate issue of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, whose independence Belgrade does not recognize. They are two out of 35 areas in which Serbia must fall in line with EU law. Vucic has pledged to meet all of Brussels‘ membership requirements by 2019.

Among other things, the EU requires that prospective members fall in line with its foreign policy. Belgrade has so far refused to join the bloc in imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn gives a press conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 01 December 2015

Moscow is a traditional ally of Serbia and an important trading partner, providing the bulk of the country‘s energy supplies.

"Our strategic goal is our EU path ... on the other side we would like to preserve the traditional friendship that we have with Russia," Vucic said.

Serbia would align its foreign policy with the EU "maybe not in 2016, maybe not in 2017, but after that we will have to do it," he added.

Vucic thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for playing a key role Serbia‘s EU accession bid by keeping her promises in return for steps demanded of Belgrade. "Without Chancellor Merkel it would not have succeeded," he said.

EU Enlargement Negotiations Commissionner Johannes Hahn, meanwhile, praised Serbia for its role in Europe‘s migration crisis. "This is a first proof that you can be ... a full member of the EU. You have shown a spirit, a solidarity which I would have liked to see by some of our member states," he said.

 

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Serbia's negotiations on EU membership began in earnest on Monday with the opening of the country's first two accession chapters in a move aimed at rewarding Belgrade for improving relations with Kosovo. Brussels (dpa) - Serbia and its erstwhile
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