Serbia will submit EU candidacy bid

The Serbian government on Saturday decided formally to submit a membership bid to join the European Union.

A decision on when that bid is formally submitted will depend upon Sweden, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković, told RTS television in Belgrade.

Serbia has been under pressure to increase its cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague before its bid is likely to be successful.

The Netherlands, in particular, has been blocking Serbia’s hope of membership, due to a lack of arrests of fugitives, in particular Ratko Mladić.

Mladić was an army chief of the Army of the Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Army), and is wanted in relation to the killing of around 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 – an area for which Dutch UN peacekeeping forces were responsible.

The announcement of the bid came on the day that the EU allowed visa-free travel for citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

On November 30, the EU decided to scrap the strict visa regime for states within the Schengen Area. The move comes 17 years after they were imposed amid the break-up of the former Yugoslavia that featured bloody wars.

EU officials said the decision to scrap visas for the three former Yugoslav republics was a signal affirming their European future.

All three are aspiring EU members, but only Macedonia has formally attained the status of a candidate. Of the former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and Croatia is next in line.

The visa-free regime applies to 25 out of 27 EU countries, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Visas are however needed for Britain and Ireland, countries that are not members of the so-called Schengen Zone.

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