Rehn reserved about Serbia's EU candidacy application this year

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn expressed his reservation on Thursday about the prospect of Serbia's applying for the status of EU membership candidate this year, Xinhua reported.
Speaking at a press conference after talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic, Rehn said that the EU needed convincing proof that Serbia was successfully implementing the transitional trade agreement and the Stabilization and Association Agreement ( SAA) between the EU and Serbia before it could favorably assess Serbia's EU candidacy.
Rehn sent a similar message to Serbia last weekend, during the visit of Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic to Brussels, when he said that he would not advise the Serbian government to submit a candidacy application before the transitional trade agreement gets unfrozen.
Rehn said that this is a realistic analysis of the European Commission's current position on Serbia's EU candidacy.
In April last year, Serbia and the EU signed the Interim Agreement and the SAA, but the two agreements were frozen pending Serbia's arrest and extradition of two remaining fugitive war crimes suspects, former Bosnian Serb Army Commander Ratko Mladic and former Croat Serb leader Goran Hadzic, to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Still, the Serbian government has decided to unilaterally implement the transitional trade agreement beginning from Jan. 31.
Despite its reservation, the EU was considering a "budgetary support facility" to help Serbia overcome the economic crisis, said Rehn.
Speaking about including Serbia on the visa-free White Schengen list by the end of this year, Rehn said that it is a feasible goal if the Serbian government's fight against crime and corruption was successful.
He said that this would be a great victory for Serbia on its path towards European integration.
Tadic said that this year was crucial for his country's EU membership bid, citing the need to ensure full cooperation with The Hague tribunal and adjust national legislation to that of the EU.
"We're doing our best to become an EU member so that citizens of Serbia can benefit from it as soon as possible. In this context, we're analyzing when to put in a formal request for EU membership. At the same time, we're seeking ways to ensure that a decision by EU members on the implementation of the Interim Agreement and the Stabilization and Association Agreement is favorable," Tadic said.
On the subject of Kosovo, Rehn said that Kosovo was very important to Europe, Serbia and the region, and practical solutions should be found to include Kosovo in economic and political cooperation processes in the region.
He said that Serbia's path towards EU membership was not conditional on finding a solution to the status of Kosovo, whose Albanian majority unilaterally declared independence from Serbia nearly one year ago.

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