Serbia-Montenegro’s EU goal

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia and Montenegro will have to harmonize their economies further if they want to join the WTO and European Union, a resident World Trade Organization (WTO) adviser said yesterday. Without WTO membership, accession to the EU would probably be impossible, Allen Shinn, in charge of preparing the Balkan nation’s accession to the WTO, said. Shinn’s comments came ahead of an EU summit in Greece today, at which the bloc was due to discuss future eastward expansion plans and a strategy for incorporating the Balkans. Serbia-Montenegro has pinned hopes on the event, eying at least access to more EU funds if not an EU pledge to start preparing a feasibility study to examine prospects of signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA). The SAA study, offering closer ties with the EU but not membership, requires the two republics to align their trade regimes and unify economies different in size and structure. The two states are ambivalent about the value of continuing their union and seeking to keep as much autonomy as possible rather than giving powers to the umbrella state. The EU wants to see Serbia-Montenegro succeed as a union, but the deal the two republics struck in February only requires them to stay together for three years before reconsidering. «It is very clear that the EU position is that they will not support separate accessions of Serbia and Montenegro either to the EU or the WTO,» Shinn said. He said the EU should not cut corners for political reasons by agreeing to advance the feasibility study without adequate progress on economic harmonization. In WTO accession terms, harmonization means guarantees that WTO agreements will be enforced equally in both states. «That means customs, technical standards, intellectual property rules, food safety standards. We have not seen, so far, much movement toward that,» Shinn said.

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