Serbia to apply for European Union entry by July

Other News Materials 24 January 2009 16:31 (UTC +04:00)

Serbia plans to apply for the European Union membership during the Czech Republic's rotating presidency of the 27- member bloc that ends on June 30, a Serbian official said, dpa reported.

Serbian vice-premier for EU integration, Bozidar Djelic, revealed the plan during his visit to Prague, the Czech EU presidency said in a statement late Friday.

Djelic's Czech counterpart, Vice-Premier for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra, said the Czech Republic supported Serbia's bid but that the western Balkan country of 10 million "still has a lot to achieve" before joining the bloc.

"Of course certain conditions must be met," Vondra said, adding that the EU "very much" appreciated progress by Serbia in "the cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal" for the former Yugoslavia.

The EU wants Serbia to hand over suspected war criminals to The Hague-based tribunal.

Serbia handed over former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in 2008 but another war crimes suspect, Ratko Mladic, remains at large.

The Czech Republic backs inclusion of western Balkan countries in the EU as a key to stability in the region.