|Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton|
by Franco Quintano
An active and dynamic Serbia whose international image has radically changed over the past few years will be in Brussels on Tuesday for the start of accession talks with the EU. The result was possible thanks to the undeniable progress made by the Balkan country in the democratization and modernization process of its state institutions which enabled Serbia to leave behind a difficult past of bloody wars that dramatically signed the end of old Socialist Yugoslavia.
Belgrade closed the painful chapter of armed conflict from the 1990s when it handed over to the international criminal court in The Hague the last war criminals requested by the international judiciary. Between 2008 and 2011, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic were captured, fugitives who were weighing on the European future of Serbia.
The new European leadership outlined reforms necessary to get Serbia closer to Europe, engaging to fight corruption and crime seriously, and accepted to normalize relations with Pristina wrapping up last April an historic agreement on Kosovo with EU mediation. All these facts convinced Brussels that Serbia really wanted to turn the page and start a new path which will lead it to become a European Union member in the next few years, after Slovenia and Croatia, the only former members of Yugoslavia who have so far made it into the EU.
After a liberalization of visas in 2010, Serbia obtained from Brussels the status of candidate country in March 2012 but only in a European summit in December it was officially announced that adhesion talks would begin on January 21 this year. Socialist Premier Ivica Dacic said the start of negotiations represents a 'new political era' for Serbia. In a meeting with the diplomatic corps, he said the country will continue to carry out its programme of reforms and engage in 'building a democratic society based on law, the development of human rights and freedom following European standards'. Belgrade is in a hurry. Dacic thinks Belgrade will be able to satisfy all conditions by 2018 to become a full EU member in 2020. I
taly's ambassador to Belgrade Giuseppe Manzo said talks opening tomorrow are an 'historic opportunity for Serbia and the Balkans', with Belgrade able to pave the wave to other countries in the region. Among those assisting Belgrade in negotiations with Brussels will be Franco Frattini, a former foreign minister appointed last October as advisor to the Serbian government for European integration issues, in particular for chapters 23 (fundamental rights and legal system) and 24 (freedom, justice and security).