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Serbian President Awaits EU Signal On Membership Bid


Serbian President Boris Tadic

Serbian President Boris Tadic

VIENNA (Reuters) -- Serbia will probably apply next month for eventual European Union membership, but will first wait for a green light from Brussels to proceed, the country's president said.

"It is up to the Europeans," Boris Tadic told Reuters on November 8. "Then we will analyze and decide."

As he waited on the Vienna airport tarmac to pick up a bag after arriving from Belgrade, Tadic was asked whether Serbia would put in its application in December to begin the long accession process. "Probably," he replied.

As president, Tadic, who traveled in economy class and carried his own luggage, has ultimate say on Serbia's application.

Like the other former Yugoslav states, Serbia aspires to join the EU but has been hampered by its failure to capture suspected war criminal General Ratko Mladic and send him to the international tribunal in The Hague.

The EU -- with strong insistence from the Netherlands -- has said Serbia cannot proceed with EU integration until Mladic is captured.

Other European countries, satisfied that Tadic and his pro-European government are doing all they can to apprehend Mladic and another wanted war criminal, privately suggest Serbia should apply soon to further its cause.

With an EU summit scheduled for December in Brussels, Tadic has scheduled several high-level visits in the coming weeks, including to Italy and Germany, with the country's EU prospects a key issue of discussion.

The nation of 7.3 million is still working off the reputation it acquired during the 1990s, when under nationalist strongman Slobodan Milosevic the country warred against its neighbors.

At a speech on the night of November 7 before a concert in Belgrade marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tadic said Belgrade's own Berlin Wall fell in 2000 when Milosevic was ousted from power.

A second wall is now falling, he said, as the EU lifts visa requirements for Serbia, Macedonians and Montenegrins, but a wall would continue to exist until the nations of the Western Balkans had full EU membership.

Among the former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia is already a member and Croatia hopes to join the 27-member bloc in 2012. Macedonia is a candidate member but has not opened negotiations because of a long-running dispute over its name with EU member Greece.

Both Montenegro and Albania have applied over the past year to one day become members.
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