First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic met today with EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn.
Both sides noted the progress made in the Republic of Serbia’s European integration process, and the expectation was expressed that an agreement on the opening of new chapters could be reached as early as next week. The need to maintain the dynamic of the accession process was underlined, despite all the challenges facing the European Union. In this context, they pointed to the messages from the Western Balkans Summit, held in Paris in July 2016, which clearly affirmed the membership prospects and a continuation of the enlargement policy.
The officials underlined the need to communicate to the public the issue of importance of EU enlargement from the perspective of its positive effects on the stability of the EU and the region itself, as well as the way in which the Western Balkans, as an important geo-strategic area, contributed to the EU and its citizens,.
They also discussed the continuation of the negotiating process in 2017, focusing on the reforms carried out in economy and the areas that are vital for the modernization of the Serbian society and state. The 2016 Progress Report on Serbia was assessed as largely positive and the commitment to the continuation of the reform process reiterated.
Also discussed were the issues related to regional cooperation and Serbia’s important role in the preservation of regional stability, which was also of significance for the stability of the EU. Minister Dacic reiterated the commitment of the Republic of Serbia to the promotion of relations with all of its neighbours as well as the expectation that all open issues would be resolved bilaterally and not through the process of accession talks.
The officials also discussed the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. The Head of Serbian diplomacy pointed to the need to respect the interests of both sides in the dialogue and to make progress in the implementation of the Brussels agreements.
Particular attention was paid to the relations between Serbia and the European Union on the Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy. Taking into account the interest Commissioner Hahn had shown for the issues from the framework of Chapter 31, which had been frequently raised in the Serbian public, Minister Dacic pointed out that Serbia was deeply committed to cooperation with the EU in the frameworks of CFSP and CSDP, and that this cooperation should not be perceived solely through the percentage of Serbia’s alignment with EU decisions. Intensive cooperation was carried out in a number of areas where Serbia was making a significant contribution to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy – when it comes to the participation in EU- and UN-mandated peacekeeping operations, Serbia was the first in the region and took eighth place in Europe according to the number of personnel engaged; we were strengthening capacities for participation in civilian missions under EU mandate; Serbia had signed agreements with the EU on the exchange of classified information as well as on cooperation with the European Defence Agency; Serbia had proven to be a credible partner of the EU concerning the refugee and migrant crisis and cooperation in combating terrorism; Serbia was contributing significantly to regional stability; it had largely aligned its policy with regard to arms control and non-proliferation and adopted the Law on the Implementation of Restrictive Measures.
At the end, Minister Dacic informed that preparations had been initiated to update the national documents on security and defence. He also underlined the constructive role Serbia played and the intensive dialogue it had had with the EU during its OSCE Chairmanship.
Concluding the meeting, both officials expressed the interest to intensify the Serbia-EU political dialogue, as well as their expectation that the steady dynamic of the opening of new negotiating chapters would be continued further in the future as well.