Serbia applies for EU bid despite fugitive Mladic
Serbia applied for EU membership, but its bid was likely to make little progress while war crimial Mladic remained at large.
Serbia applied for European Union membership on Tuesday, but its bid was likely to make little progress while war crimial Ratko Mladic remained at large.
Serbia's failure to arrest Mladic, the Bosnian Serb ex-general indicted for genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal over the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo, has been a major barrier to Belgrade's EU ambitions.
President Boris Tadic submitted the Serbian application to Sweden, holder of the rotating EU presidency, a decade after the end of the Balkan wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt welcomed the application as a "historic step".
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner welcomed the application but said in a statement issued in Paris it was essential that Belgrade continue to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Process could take years
The application followed signs of a slight EU thaw towards the biggest ex-Yugoslav republic, the target of United Nations sanctions in the 1990s after its war in Kosovo province.
Earlier this month, the EU unblocked an interim trade deal with Serbia and lifted the visa requirements for Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, allowing their citizens to travel freely to the 27-nation bloc.
But ratification of Serbia's Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the bloc is on hold, at the insistence of The Netherlands, until Mladic has been extradited to the Hague tribunal.
Tadic himself said Serbia could still join the bloc in 2014, only two years after Croatia, which started talks in 2005, but acknowledged it was an ambitious goal.
Of the former Yugoslav republics, only the westernmost, Slovenia, joined the European Union in 2004. Croatia, which became a member of NATO this year, hopes to conclude its EU entry talks in 2010 and join the bloc in 2012.
Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro have already applied for membership but have yet to start talks.
Reuters Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2009, 10:46