EU candidate status for Serbia "done" deal, France says
Serbia is set to be granted European Union candidate status this week, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Monday, noting that no "objections" had been raised at a meeting with EU counterparts in Brussels, DPA reported.
The decision is to be formally taken by the ministers responsible for EU affairs on Tuesday and endorsed by EU leaders at a summit at the end of the week.
Juppe noted that an across-the-board consensus had already been evident at Monday's meeting.
"It's done. There was agreement today," he told reporters. "There are no longer any objections."
But at the same time, he warned that there remains "a long road" ahead before Serbia is given the green light to ultimately join the bloc.
In the case of Croatia - the country poised to become the EU's 28th member in 2013 - it will have taken nine years to go from candidacy to membership.
"The status of candidate is not the status of member," Juppe noted.
Serbia has removed most of the roadblocks on its path to candidate status by striking two deals with Kosovo on regional cooperation and border management.
Better relations between Serbia and its breakaway province is considered a precondition for progress by Belgrade towards EU membership.
Serbian President Boris Tadic said during a visit to Brussels on Monday that he believes Serbia is "deserving" of the candidate status, noting that his country is "doing everything that is possible in order to reach peaceful solutions" despite many challenges.
"We are fulfilling all the conditions in order to create better conditions for ordinary people," he said. "This is about Serbian people, Serbian citizens."
Snagging the candidate status is also, however, likely to give Tadic a boost in upcoming elections. Polls currently show him trailing behind.