BRUSSELS -- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said that Serbia could be granted the status of EU candidate in 2009, later than the target initially set by Belgrade of the end of this year.
"It would be possible to give candidate status to Serbia in 2009.... But this is not a commitment, it depends on Serbia, it depends on the conditions on the European Union side," Barroso told reporters after talks in Brussels with Serbian President Boris Tadic.
Serbia had hoped the arrest of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic on July 21 would unfreeze the trade benefits and other aspects of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) signed in April as the first step towards EU membership.
However, Karadzic's wartime general Ratko Mladic remains at large, and the EU has said it would wait for UN war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz to report on whether Serbia was fully cooperating with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague before taking any further steps on Serbia's aspirations.
"Serbia is going to do everything possible to speed up this process.... We are going to continue our cooperation with The Hague tribunal," said Tadic, on his first visit to Brussels in nearly a year.