The EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has assessed countries aiming to eventually join the European Union fairly positively. A first step accord will be initialed with Serbia this Wednesday, he said, after it stepped up the hunt for war crimes suspects. This comes after receiving a green light from UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte.
Rehn said next year should see preliminary agreements clinched with all the Western Balkan states. Definitive signing for Belgrade would depend on full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Rehn said: “Of course, it is not the end of the road… ICTY cooperation can not be a stop-start process. More still needs to be done to reach full cooperation – which remains a necessary condition for the signature of the stabilisation and association agreement.”
In his annual progress report on reform efforts, Rehn said Croatia’s EU entry bid is going well – in spite of criticism about judicial and administrative reform, corruption and industrial restructuring. Diplomats expect Zagreb to move ahead substantially – a role model for others – and said Croatia is the only candidate likely to make it into the bloc in the next five years.
Macedonia was disappointed with confirmation that the launch of its negotiations to join the EU will be postponed until 2009 because of tensions with this former Yugoslav republic’s Albanian-speaking minority.