The European Union foreign ministers have agreed to unfreeze an interim trade agreement with Serbia. Diplomats said this marks a breakthrough in the former Yugoslav republic’s ambition of EU membership. The agreement also covering economic cooperation will go into place pending ratification of a Stabilisation and Association Accord.
The decision follows a report noting improved cooperation by Belgrade with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in pursuing suspected war criminals. The Dutch had vetoed approval for Serbia for a year and a half, insisting that fugitive genocide indictee Ratko Mladic must be turned in and face justice. Goran Hadzic, a former leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia, is also high on the wanted list. An immediate benefit for Serbs comes in being allowed to travel to and within the EU’s passport control free Schengen area without a visa from this December 19. Flag carrier JAT Airways says it will fly passengers to numerous Schengen destinations for the special price of 19 euros. The visa move eases the isolation of Serbia, eager to formally apply to join the EU.