Photographer: Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

EU to Formally Open Membership Talks With Serbia This Month

  • First two chapters will focus on financial control, Kosovo
  • Serbia plans even closer ties with Russia, president says

The European Union will formally start membership talks with Serbia this month, beginning with negotiations on financial controls and ties with its breakaway province Kosovo, the key to its chances of accession.

The 28-member bloc will start talks on two of 35 policy areas countries are required to complete before entry on Dec. 14, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Belgrade on Thursday. The announcement, which comes almost two years after the EU formally endorsed the process, represents a step forward following delays over Serbia’s refusal to acknowledge Kosovo’s independence.

“We look forward to more intense cooperation which is also very important for the EU, not just Serbia,” Mogherini said in Belgrade on Thursday.

The country of 7.2 million wants to follow its fellow former Yugoslav republics Slovenia and Croatia, which are already EU members. While Serbia resolved most of its disputes with Kosovo in EU-mediated talks in August, it doesn’t recognize the province’s 2008 secession and has balked at aligning its foreign policy with that of the EU in imposing sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukrainian conflict.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said that his country will foster even closer ties with Russia. “Being a friend of Russia doesn’t mean being against the European Union,” Nikolic said on Thursday.

About 49 percent of Serbs backed EU membership in a June opinion poll conducted by the government’s EU Integration Office. The reading was the highest since end-2013. Serbia’s dinar was little changed against the euro at 4 p.m. in Belgrade.

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