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Dec 22, 2009 18:21 EEST
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BELGRADE (Serbia), December 22 (SeeNews) – Serbia on Tuesday formally applied to join the European Union, state-owned broadcaster RTS reported.
Serbia's President Boris Tadic submitted the membership application to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm, RTS (www.rts.rs) reported. Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the bloc.
“The road to membership is long and big reforms will be needed but Serbia will fulfil all the requirements needed for membership,” RTS quoted Reinfeldt as telling a news conference in Stockholm.
Tadic said expected Serbia will fulfil all the conditions needed to win full membership of the EU in the next few years.
“Today is a historical day for Serbia,” Tadic said.
“We will continue our efforts to arrest all those indicted of war crimes.”
The Balkan country made substantial progress towards EU accession with the signing of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) in April 2008 and with the arrest of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic in August 2008. But its progress towards accession has been hindered by the government’s failure to arrest fugitive Bosnian Serb war crimes indictee General Ratko Mladic.
The Hague tribunal indicted Mladic and Karadzic for the genocide in Srebrenica, where some 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim males were murdered and buried in mass graves in 1995, and for masterminding the siege of Bosnian capital Sarajevo in which more than 10,000 people lost their lives. U.N. prosecutor Serge Brammertz said earlier this month that Serbia was co-operating more efficiently in the search for Mladic.
Serbia is the latest arrival in the line of former Yugoslav republics waiting to join the EU. Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Macedonia are in various stages of their accession to the bloc.
The European Commission has said that Croatia has made good progress in its accession talks with the bloc, which it started in 2005, and that the negotiation process could be concluded in 2010 if the country meets all outstanding benchmarks in time.
Montenegro has made further progress towards a functioning market economy but still needs to fight corruption and organized crime, the EU executieve has said. The tiny Adriatic state applied for EU membership in December last year and the commission is expected to release its opinion on the application in the autumn of 2010
Bosnia made little progress towards accession this year as deteriorating political climate and nationalistic rhetoric stalled reforms. It was the only Western Balkan state to receive a negative assessment by the Commission in its autumn report.
Macedonia was granted an EU-candidate status in December 2005, but is still awaiting a date for the start of accession negotiations. Earlier this month, the European Council delayed its decision for setting a date for the start of membership talks with Skopje until the first half of 2010.
Slovenia is the sole member of the former Yugoslav federation of six republicsthat has joined the bloc. It became EU member in 2004.
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