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Serbia Takes 'Very Important' Step Forward In EU Accession Process

By RFE/RL's Balkan Service December 14, 2021

Serbia has taken a step toward its goal of joining the EU by opening talks on four policy areas, but European officials warn Belgrade that progress in the process still depends on continued reforms and normalizing relations with Kosovo.

To be eligible to join the 27-country EU, applicant states must bring their laws and regulations into line with the bloc's standards through negotiations in 35 policy areas, or chapters, including finance, agriculture, transport, energy, social, and justice policy.

On December 14, Serbia was allowed to open talks on climate change and environment, energy, transport policy, and trans-European infrastructure networks -- the first time the Balkan country has opened four chapters at once.

Belgrade has now opened 22 negotiating chapters since its membership talks began in 2014.

"Serbia is taking yet another very important step forward joining the European Union," EU Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said following the intergovernmental conference with Serbia in Brussels.

Gasper Dovzan, state secretary at the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, whose country is currently holding the presidency of the EU Council, said that the Serbian government "prioritized EU-related reforms and delivered on a number of important commitments, in particular on taxation and energy."

But "further efforts are needed," Dovzan said, citing judiciary independence, media freedom, and the fight against corruption and organized crime.

"Serbia's progress on the rule of law and the normalization of relations with Kosovo remains essential and will continue to determine the overall pace of the negotiations," he added.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a 1998-99 conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbian forces. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign drove Serbian troops out, and a peacekeeping force moved in.

Kosovo's independence has been recognized by more than 100 countries including the United States and all but five of the EU member states. But Serbia still considers the territory a southern province and is supported by Russia and China.

EU-mediated talks between Pristina and Belgrade to settle their differences have stalled.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/serbia-eu -opens-chapters/31608725.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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