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Serbia rejoices over EU candidacy recommendation

(Xinhua)

16:31, October 13, 2011

BELGRADE, Oct 12 (Xinhua) -- Serbian leaders were vocally happy after the European Commission recommended on Wednesday that the country be granted candidate status for the EU membership.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said during a press conference that he was proud of his country's progress in reforming institutions and its fight against organized crime, areas highlighted by the EC. Tadic said he anticipated full candidacy before the end of the year.

Director of the European Integration Office Milica Delevic called the recommendation extremely positive, due to the Serbian government's reform process and because the EC did not include any new conditions for Serbia's membership.

The governing Democratic Party stressed the economic windfall associated with Serbia's recommended EU accession process.

"Serbia as a candidate country for EU membership will have access to all parts of the EU budget and this will be an important signal to all investors that Serbia is a country safe for investment," said an official statement.

The EC recommendation did come with a caveat that Serbia must implement "pragmatic and sustainable solutions" to improve its relationship with Kosovo, its breakaway province which has garnered diplomatic support from most EU countries.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic was quick to disengage the status of Kosovo from Serbia's EU aspirations.

"For us, these are two separate processes and one can not affect the other," stated Jeremic.

Nonetheless, Serbia's future negotiations with the EU conditioned by an agreement with Kosovo did not go unnoticed by a number of opposition politicians.

Cedomir Jovanovic, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) called the recommendation "predictable" and said the challenge was for Serbia to meet the implied political conditions, not simply harmonize its legislation with the EU.

"What we have heard today is a great disappoint given our expectations," said Jovanovic, adding that the recommendation increases the rhetoric in the pre-election environment in Serbia.

"The degree to which we are in Kosovo is the degree to which we are in Europe," said Jovanovic, accusing the government's two-track diplomatic approach of failing to achieve either of its goals.

"Formally they will give us the status of a candidate but will first demand that our institutions in four municipalities in northern Kosovo be terminated, and prior to that to close the court in Kosovska Mitrovica," said Dragan Todorovic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS).

According to Todorovic, the anticipated EU demands on the Serbian government would be a form of "blackmail." In light of the EC recommendation, he said Serbia's move toward EU membership would signal the abandonment of the Serb population in Kosovo.

The northern Kosovo municipalities, largely populated by Serbs, have resisted increasing efforts in recent months by Pristina to centralize institutions, regarding themselves part of Serbia.


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