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May 19, 2022

Romania delays Serbia’s EU bid

The decision was criticised by Belgrade and by Union leaders.

Romania’s decision to delay the adoption of a resolution concerning Serbia’s candidacy to the European Union stirred discontent both at an international level, and back home. The European Affairs ministers of EU member states convening on Tuesday in Brussels for the General Affairs Council meeting recommended that Serbia should be granted the candidate status, with a view to its joining the EU, but no formal decision was adopted. “Romania vetoed an immediate agreement,” diplomatic sources, quoted by Mediafax (which quotes AFP), argued. Danish European Affairs Minister Nicolai Wammen confirmed “talks” were scheduled for the following days to sort out tensions.More explicitly, Romania decided to use its veto prerogatives at the last minute, on the grounds that Serbia has been encroaching on the rights of Vlachs. Romania wants that Serbia to sign a protocol concerning the rights of this community. Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu stated on Tuesday night that Serbia was to sign by today this bilateral protocol with Romania, a protocol which is 95 pc agreeable, he argued. “The General Affairs Council decided to recommend EU presidents and prime-ministers that Serbia should be granted the candidate status, while introducing a monitoring mechanism as regards the protection of minority rights,” Diaconescu explained, on B1 TV. In his view, the most important provision in this protocol concerns “the state’s non-interference in the Romanians’ right to define their own identity”. Other provisions include ethnic and religious freedom, the right to use their own Romance language and support from the state for schools and churches.European Affairs Minister Leonard Orban explained, in turn, yesterday that serious problemmes had been reported as regards the protection of minority rights in Serbia and that this was the reason why Romania had brought up the subject within the European Council. The minister further argued that, in the case of all the countries joining the EU, “the meeting of the political criterion was a necessary condition for starting negotiations and the political criterion also involves respect for the rights of ethnic minorities in the respective countries”.On the other hand, German FM Guido Westerwelle voiced his dissatisfaction with Romania’s stance on Serbia’s EU bid. “If it had been our call, a final decision would have been adopted today (e.n. Tuesday),” Westerwelle argued. According to the German minister, the veto was motivated by the Romanian delegation’s internal policy reasons. “In our opinion, this is not the fair European spirit that should govern such decisions,” Westerwelle said. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also accused Romania, indirectly, of “lacking the European spirit”. “It is not very dignified when certain nations bring up unrelated matters just as we are trying to push Serbia and Kosovo forward. This is a lack of European spirit,” according to a message the latter posted on Twitter. In response, the minister Orban argued: “You know what it is like. During such talks, during such negotiations, things can get heated”.The Serbian president Boris Tadici stated yesterday he had discussed with Traian Basescu Romania’s request for “firm guarantees concerning the rights of the Romanian minority in Serbia”. “Romania will only do what any other country does, trying to defend its interests and to protect its ethnic minority in a neighbouring country. We respect human rights and liberties,” Tadici stated, quoted by Realitatea.net. A day before, the Serbian president had been more vehement, stating on the Serbian national television that the problem had been caused by the Romanian authorities’ request that all Serbian citizens “who declare themselves Vlachs should also be considered Romanians by default”. “Serbia will not stand for this, no matter what,” as such an approach “goes against European standards”, he underlined. “Every Serbian citizen is free to declare (his ethnicity) as he/she sees fit and it is complicated to come up with a solution to this problem,” Tadic argued. In his turn, Radisa Dragojevic, president of the National Council of Vlachs in Serbia stated for the Serbian radio station B92 that Vlachs are not Romanians and no one has the right “to ask them to declare themselves Romanians”. The Social-Democratic Party (PSD) is divided on this matter. “Romania continues to support Serbia’s path to the European Union, but, if it wishes to join the EU, the neighbouring state must abide by certain criteria, including the respect for ethnic minorities’ rights,” the chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee in the Senate, Titus Corlatean, stated for RFI. Adrian Nastase voiced in turn, on Wednesday, his support for the Government’s and the Foreign Minister’s decision on Serbia, as Belgrade “has been leading us on” as regards safeguarding minority rights. On the other hand, the Social-Democrat president Victor Ponta qualified Romania’s gesture as “deeply unfair”, arguing we shouldn’t be giving Belgrade the treatment we are getting from Holland in the Schengen matter.In fact, the most popular theory as regards the reasons for which Romania blocked Serbia’s candidacy suggests that Romania meant to prove to Holland how seriously it is taking the Schengen Area matter, after Holland vetoed the Schengen accession last year invoking widespread corruption. The more so as the Netherlands invested a lot in Serbia’s EU accession efforts, ensuring in 2011 that Belgrade handed over the individuals accused of war crimes to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. An EU diplomat told the EUobserver: “This was about Holland and the Schengen accession. The Romanians did not mention this publicly, but there were a couple of tiny comments about this during the Foreign Ministers’ meeting”. Nonetheless, the Dutch delegation stated, officially, that Romania had not made any connection between Schengen and Serbia. Danish European Affairs Minister Nicolai Wammen, who chaired the Tuesday meeting, stated in turn: “The Schengen topic was not brought up”.

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