Serb EU Entry Talks to Open in 2014 After December Summit

Serbia moved closer to opening talks on joining the European Union in January, confirming progress is being made toward reaching a settlement between the largest former Yugoslav republic and Kosovo.

European government leaders are set to decide to open entry talks with Serbia, according to a draft statement for an EU summit starting today in Brussels. A summit on Dec. 20 will confirm that decision, paving the way for talks to start in January 2014 “at the very latest,” the draft said. The leaders will also endorse the start of talks on closer political and economic ties Kosovo.

Serbia’s “continued visible and sustainable progress in the normalization of relations, including the implementation of the agreements reached so far, remains essential so Kosovo and Serbia can continue on their respective European paths,” European Affairs ministers said in a June 25 statement.

Serbia and its breakaway province signed a pact on April 19, establishing principles for future improvement relations. Both need deeper EU ties after the civil wars of the 1990s stunted the region’s transition from communism and almost destroyed their economies.

The April agreement showed that “Serbia, and indeed Kosovo, have done a huge amount of work,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in Brussels on June 26, at a joint press conference with Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic.

“The important thing is that Germany gave its consent for the opening of talks and we will practically, formally and officially open the negotiations tomorrow,” Dacic told reporters in Belgrade today.

EU leaders will release a final statement on Serbia when the summit ends tomorrow afternoon.

‘Historical Event’

Though Serbia is not “overly happy” that the actual start of negotiations can’t take place in October, the fact that they are poised to take place “is a historical event,” Dacic said.

The Serbian dinar gained 0.37 percent on the day to trade at 114.0334 to the euro at 3:40 p.m. in Belgrade, while yields on the Serbian 10-year Eurobond maturing in 2021 dropped 41 basis points to 6.956 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The main index of 15 most actively traded assets fell 0.6 percent to 476.03 points.

Serbia formally became an EU candidate in March, joining Slovenia, which joined the world’s largest trading bloc in 2004, and Croatia, which enters on July 1.

Slovenia has been an EU member since 2004 and Croatia will enter the EU in July. Montenegro has started membership talks and the Republic of Macedonia has been ready to start entry talks since 2009.

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