The European Commission expects Serbia to quickly undertake the neccessary steps to establish full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, which remains one of the important requirements in its accession negotiations, the Commission's spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said on Thursday.

During a press conference, reporters were interested whether a negative report by the Tribunal on Serbia's cooperation would have any consequences on the opening of Chapters 23 and 24, announced for the end of the month.

Preparations to open Chapters 23 and 24 are under way and I don't want to speculate about that, but I repeat that full cooperation remains an obligation, Kocijancic said.

The European Commission is following carefully and with great concern the ICTY's reports to the UN Security Council and the negative developments with regard to Serbia's cooperation with the Tribunal. Processing war crimes and full cooperation with the ICTY are important requirements in Serbia's accession negotiations. That is also key for regional cooperation and reconciliation, she said.

ICTY President Carmel Agius and Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz on Wednesday expressed disappointment to the UN Security Council over Serbia's decision not to extradite three high-ranking officials of the Serbian Radical Party accused of contempt of court, assessing that this was a step backward in Serbia's cooperation with the Tribunal.

Brammertz expressed his office's regret that “Serbia has turned away from the path of full cooperation with the Tribunal,”and reminded the Security Council that "Serbia has failed for a year and a half to execute the Tribunal’s arrest warrants for three individuals indicted for contempt." He noted that in this final phase of the Tribunal’s work, Serbia' cooperation remains essential to enable the completion of the Tribunal’s mandate.

Earlier this month, Croatia agreed in the Council of the European Union to begin defining a joint negotiating position for Chapter 23 in Serbia's accession negotiations, provided that the position will solve three key objections because of which Croatia initially withheld its approval.

Croatia had three demands for the opening of Chapter 23: Serbia's full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal; Serbia's full implementation of domestic and international obligations in protecting minority rights; and the question of Serbia's jurisdiction for war crimes.

The Council of the EU is preparing a draft joint negotiating position of the EU member states. Only when all EU member states have approved the text and unanimously adopted the joint negotiating position will that chapter be opened.

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