First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic hosted this evening a working dinner for members of COELA, Working Group of the Council of the EU on enlargement, as well as for representatives of the EU Council and the European Commission, who are visiting Serbia from 28 February to 3 March 2017.
Head of Serbian diplomacy Ivica Dacic underlined that full membership of the EU remained the key strategic goal of Serbia’s foreign policy, to which the Serbian Government was fully committed. He expressed his expectation that Serbia would open further negotiating chapters as Malta and Estonia consecutively held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Recalling that the entire EU accession process of the Republic of Serbia was being followed according to the pace and results achieved in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he underlined that it would be counterproductive in the long run to keep such a parallelism between progress made on Chapter 35 and progress on other reform chapters, since this would imply that the importance of the reforms undertaken was being underestimated in practice, and a highly sensitive political process overestimated.
Minister Dacic voiced dissatisfaction with Pristina persistently avoiding to launch the implementation of its commitments concerning the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities and taking unilateral moves, such as bids to join UNESCO and other international organizations, thus jeopardizing the results of the dialogue achieved so far.
Speaking about the issue of alignment with the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU, the Minister said that it was mistaken to assess that issue solely through the percentage of alignment with EU declarations, since Serbia played an important role in numerous other areas of cooperation. He underlined in particular 328 personnel from Serbia taking part in UN- and EU-mandated peace operations, Serbia strengthening its capacities for higher participation in civilian peace operations, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, close relations with the European Defence Agency, as well as that Serbia had been a credible partner of the EU in addressing challenges of the migrant crisis, taking bigger burden in this context than some of the EU Member States. All of the above showed that Serbia thought of the EU as the main partner when it comes to foreign, security and defence policy. In this context, he emphasized that Serbia would continue to assess on an individual basis all EU declarations in this area, and that it would, as it had done so far, decide on alignment with them, acting in the spirit of principled pragmatism, that the EU advocated as well. The Minister also pointed out that 64% of alignment was realistic at the current stage of accession negotiations. He also informed that the work on new strategic documents in the field of defence was in progress. He expressed satisfaction that the practice of consultations with the EEAS had been established, as a good platform for strengthening cooperation and exchanging views concerning numerous fields. He underlined that Serbia was fully committed to the achievement of long-term stability in the region. In this context, he underlined the importance of the Berlin Process for the achievement of close cooperation in the fields of infrastructure connectivity, economic integration and youth cooperation. At the same time, he expressed his regret that not all actors in the region shared the same interest for reconciliation and the forward-looking approach. In this context he stressed the extremely serious situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina where Bakir Izetbegovic undermined the existing institutions and made personal decision to launch revision of ICJ judgment concerning the genocide case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. the Republic of Serbia, which would have lasting consequences not only for Bosnia-Herzegovina, but also for the entire region.
Recalling, in the end, the support of Serbian people to European integration, the Minister pointed out that the EU should have a more balanced approach and must take clear stance on each and every move that was not in accordance with European norms and standards and fundamental EU values and principles, regardless where they came from. Serbian public had a very strong feeling that such reactions were lacking or were very mild when it comes to other actors in the wider region, while a completely different approach was applied when Serbia was at stake. All of this influenced the overall perception and image of the EU, causing oscillations in the percentage of support for EU membership.