Dacic: "The European Union is not complete without the Balkan region"

Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic at the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste:

Dear Minister Alfano,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my distinct pleasure to have the opportunity to attend another Western Balkans Summit. The significant progress achieved since August 2014 assures me of the full commitment of us all to this process. Enhanced regional cooperation and projects agreed with the support of our EU partnering countries encourage us to focus our efforts on the accomplishment of further results and full use of the provided potentials.

We highly appreciate the financial contribution by the European Union and its Member States to the Western Balkans region. The many EU-funded projects enable stronger cooperation and connectivity within the region, thus contributing to the European integration process.

I believe that we are all aware of the importance of maintaining regional stability and overcoming the problems of the past. Serbia will continue to contribute, through a constructive approach, to removing obstacles, keeping the peace and promoting cooperation in the region. It is high time that we focused on identifying common interests rather than on potential mutual differences and looking for culprits, for this path would lead us to an abyss. The Berlin process has enabled us to embark on the consolidation of the regional infrastructure network and further improvement of transport, energy and economic connectivity, as well as on fostering youth cooperation. At a time when the EU Member States are re-examining the operation of the EU as the highest possible level of regional integration the world has ever known, Serbia and the Balkans see the EU as a successful entity, whose member we wish to become. It is, therefore, extremely important to receive an additional push from the EU by providing a more distinct timeline for our European integration path.

I am confident that today’s approval of the Multi-annual Action Plan on Regional economic area by our Prime ministers will be in our common vital interest. Economic connectivity will have a positive impact on the political developments, as well. In this way, we will reinforce our economies and better prepare ourselves for EU accession. This will result in the region’s greater attractiveness to potential investors, increased economic growth, creation of more new jobs, and technological advancement. With this plan, we will enhance our export capacities and ensure competitiveness on the global market. A more profound economic integration is sending out a clear political message, demonstrating that the surmounting of outstanding problems is in the common interest of all.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Just a few weeks ago, the new Government was installed in Serbia, but our priorities have not changed – membership of the European Union remains the country’s main strategic goal. The wide-ranging reforms Serbia has been implementing in many sectors clearly indicate our aim to improve the quality of life of our citizens and, at the same time, establish strong institutions with their work grounded in democratic principles and full adherence to the rule of law. So far, Serbia has opened 10 negotiating chapters and it is our expectation that at least three new chapters will be opened until the end of the year. This is certainly a result worthy of praise, however, we believe that our accomplishments and dedication need to be fully recognized as well as that it is necessary to not only maintain the dynamic in the accession talks, but increase it as well. Serbia wholeheartedly supports the merit-based approach of the European Union, taking into account individual results. Progress anyone of us makes in the European integration process should not be a limiting factor, but quite the opposite, an encouragement to others in the region. In that spirit, I hope that we are going to reach a consensus on Belgrade as the seat of the Transport community Treaty, that was assessed as the best candidate and in which, for more than a decade, SEETO secretariat successfully works.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to express my hope that the European Union would continue its active support to the enlargement policy, namely, one of its most successful policies. We are aware that the European Union is currently facing numerous challenges and difficulties, but the EU knows it only too well that the stability of our region is key to the stability and security of the EU. As a credible partner, we stand ready to make a difference, particularly in addressing the migration crisis as well as in fighting terrorism, radicalization, violent extremism and xenophobia. It is only through a joint and solidary approach that we will be able to find a durable long-term solution for the challenges ahead of us. Furthermore, we must not overlook the fact that the international environment is rapidly changing, that new circumstances have arisen, that old conflicts are still ongoing and the new ones keep emerging, that the intensity of leading world powers’ influence is changing, that new powers come to the scene, etc. All these developments have not spared Serbia and the Balkans either, and we have a good will to participate actively in the relevant processes, and even though our contribution may be a humble one, our motivation would be honest.

Seeing our future with the EU, we hope that our EU partners would provide us with an opportunity to also contribute to the debate on further shaping of the EU. The European Union, as the greatest peace project in modern history, cannot be considered complete without the Balkan region, which is its integral part geographically, historically, politically and, above all, in terms of shared values and culture. This is the main message in the letter that we have commonly sent, in the eve of this Summit, to EU High representative Mogherini, Commissioner Hahn and our homologues in the EU.

Finally, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to Italy for all the efforts it invested in the preparation of this Summit held in Trieste, a city of which we all have fond memories.

Thank you for your attention.