European Union leaders last week agreed to move forward with accession talks with Serbia, whose application for EU membership had been stalled as a result of disputes over the status of its breakaway region of Kosovo. Currently, eight countries are waiting to join the European Union: Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Iceland, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. Croatia’s membership has already been approved, and the country will officially join the European Union on July 1.
Joining the European Union is a long and complicated process. Applicant countries must meet specific criteria and satisfy benchmarksrelating to democracy, the rule of law, market economy, and adherence to the European Union’s goals of political and economic union. There are 35 specific “Chapters” governing membership, and countries must meet specific targets in all areas to be granted membership.
Turkey’s application for EU membership has been further complicated by its historical relations with France and Germany, which have resulted in much slower progress than other applicant countries have seen. The Turkish government’s harsh response to protests in recent days may now further delay its application.
Serbia’s accession talks have been complicated by disputes over the status of the breakaway region of Kosovo. While Kosovo has been recognized by the European Union and most Western countries, Serbia asserts that Kosovo remains part of its territory. As recently as March 2013, Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ivica Dačić, asserted that his government would never recognize Kosovo’s independence, that “Kosovo is ours,” and that Serbia retained the right to define its own borders. But two weeks ago, Kosovo and Serbia exchanged liaison officers (diplomatic officials short of formal ambassadorial staff). It remains to be seen if Serbia and Kosovo can reconcile their differences as Serbia moves forward with its application for EU membership.
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