Dacic: “Western Balkans’ European perspective essential to regional and European stability”

Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic over a working lunch for Ministers of Foreign Affairs of EU Member States and Candidate Countries, organized within the framework of the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council:

Esteemed Minister Mikser,
Dear colleagues,
Dear friends,

May I, first of all, say a few words to thank Estonia as the country currently holding the EU Presidency for providing us with an opportunity to exchange views in the present format. I believe that there can never be too many of these meetings; high-level talks between partners should be held as frequently as possible.

I wish to underline also what I have been often repeating to our friends across the world. Full membership of the European Union is Serbia’s first strategic foreign policy priority. This reflects the will of the citizens of Serbia and the incumbent Government in Belgrade has opted for it, as well as the ones that preceded it.

Therefore, we have a legitimate expectation that the announced Strategy for the successful accession of Serbia and Montenegro to the European Union will clearly recognize Serbia, along with Montenegro, as the leader in the EU accession process and that the perspective of its full membership during the mandate of the next European Commission is a realistic objective. This does not mean, however, that the European path of other membership aspirants from the region should be side-tracked. On the contrary, this will encourage all in the Western Balkans to proceed with positive competition in this respect, and with the implementation of their internal transformation, as rapidly and as effectively as possible. I am strongly convinced that we in Belgrade will be pleased with the Strategy, as soon as it is released.

Serbia is undergoing a wide range of economic and political reforms aimed at preparing our country for the challenges EU membership brings with it. I would like to assure you that the Government to which I belong is working hard to overcome all the challenges down the road. Yesterday’s Intergovernmental Conference surely comes as recognition and the result of these efforts, since Serbia has opened two new chapters. I hope that our accession process will continue successfully under the Bulgarian Presidency, and that a number of new chapters will be opened, accordingly. We are aware of the great many challenges facing the EU, both internally and globally, and for that reason we appreciate even more the decision of our neighbouring Bulgaria to include the European perspective of the Western Balkans among the priorities of its incoming Presidency. We particularly welcome Bulgaria’s intention to host the EU – Western Balkans summit, whose convening I have been personally advocating for a long time.

We sincerely hope that Austria and Romania as future European Council Presidency holders, very close to our region, will deal with the enlargement issue and positively consider the Balkan topic within their programmes.
We in Serbia are glad that there is a growing awareness among the Member States that the European perspective of the Western Balkans is of crucial importance to the stability of our region and Europe as a whole. We have made great strides to normalize our relations with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro; both the President of the Republic and members of the Government understand full well the importance of regional stability to the future of Serbia.
You are also aware that Serbia has another strategic political priority – the preservation of territorial integrity and sovereignty which has been challenged following the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. That is exactly why Serbia’s diplomatic efforts towards preserving territorial integrity form an essential element of our relations with other countries and international factors.
Political leaders in Belgrade invested all their political credibility in the process of dialogue on the normalization of relations with Pristina – which in my capacity then as Prime Minister I embarked upon in October 2012. I would like to assure you that Belgrade remains truly committed to this process as has been proven time and again by the implementation of the achieved agreements. However, I have to recall that no progress whatsoever has been made over the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities, although most of the provisions of the Brussels agreement relate to this issue. It is necessary that the other side in the dialogue assumes responsibility and honours its obligations. The efforts have to be shared particularly in view of the fact that it is the only way to ensure normal life for citizens in Kosovo and Metohija and stabilize relations between Serbs and other non-Albanians with the Albanians. I am convinced that the entire Union supports Belgrade in this goal, despite different views of the Member States regarding the status of Kosovo and Metohija. We therefore hope that the dialogue will continue and be successful with full support of the EU and under its auspices, whose facilitating role we fully trust. Only through a committed dialogue will it be possible to resolve all outstanding issues and build a stable region.
Thank you for your attention.”