Serbia hopes to push open EU door in spring 2012
(STRASBOURG) - Serbia is banking on EU membership talks in spring 2012 after registering "tangible results" in its difficult EU-brokered dialogue with Kosovo, a leading official told the European parliament Monday.
Bozidar Djelic, Serbia's vice-premier in charge of European integration, told the parliament's foreign affairs committee in Strasbourg that 2011 would be a key year in its long efforts to join the 27-nation bloc.
"The goal of Serbia is obtaining candidate status for membership in the EU and, even more importantly, setting the date for the opening of pre-accession negotiations for the spring of 2012", he said.
2011, he added, is also "the year in which we will start the long-awaited dialogue with Pristina and hopefully reach first tangible results."
The European Union last October agreed to examine Belgrade's candidacy to join the bloc as a reward for its softened stance on Kosovo.
But in return it demanded Belgrade's stepped-up cooperation with the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and renewed efforts to bring in suspected Balkans war criminals.
Djelic said Serbia was doing "everything in its power to locate, apprehend and transfer" fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, both wanted by the ICTY.
Fugitive Bosnian Serb general Mladic tops the ICTY list of war crimes suspects, with a 19-million-dollar reward offered by Serbia and the United States for information leading to his arrest.
He is accused of masterminding the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 people dead and the massacre in July 1995 of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.
Former Croatian Serb leader Hadzic is wanted for the murder of thousands of Croatian civilians between 1991 and 1993. There are rewards of up to 1.4 million dollars offered for his arrest.
Serbia applied for EU membership in December 2009 but won support for the bid only after agreeing last September to start a dialogue with its breakaway province of Kosovo.
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