Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini says the time has come for Serbia to submit its application for European Union membership.
Frattini said that Serbia should submit its candidacy appplication with the EU “before Christmas.”
Rome supports the speeding up of European integration for the Western Balkans, and as such backed the decision to unfreeze Serbia’s Interim Trade Agreement with the EU, Frattini said.
. The trade pact ispart of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA, the first step towards EU candidate-member status for Western Balkan countries.
The decision on Serbia came after the Netherlands lifted its opposition to closer EU ties, ending an 18-month blockade. The Dutch were vehemently opposed to unblocking the agreement as long as Ratko Mladic – a Bosnian Serb general wanted by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY – remains at large.
When asked about the eventual ratification of the SAA, Frattini said he believed that it would happen before June next year.
“I hope that in six months, by the beginning of June next year, we will be able to start the ratification of the SAA. We will make the decision later, during the Spanish presidency,” Frattini said.
According to the Serbian dailies Blic and Dnevnik, Belgrade plans to file the application at the session of the Council for European integration on December 22.
Belgrade has been reportedly advised to submit the application during the Swedish EU presidency, which ends on January 1.