Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the Informal Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP):
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To begin with, allow me to thank our hosts for organizing this meeting and to wish them every success during their year-long Chairmanship of the SEECP.
I am pleased to be able to attend today’s meeting and partake in a discussion about the current situation in South-East Europe and the challenges the participants have been facing. I highly appreciate the priorities of the Slovenian Chairmanship, under “SEE4Future” motto, particularly because it is clear that it will largely focus on topics that are essential to us, such as EU enlargement, security, good prospects for young people and the digital transformation of society.
Without a doubt, EU membership remains one of the top priorities of Serbia’s foreign policy, while the perspective of membership gives a strong push to the comprehensive reforms Serbia has been implementing and, at the same time, encourages reconciliation and regional cooperation throughout the Balkan region.
It is our hope that we will remember the Estonian Presidency as the one when Serbia opened the largest number of negotiating chapters – and we will indeed do everything in our power for this to happen. However, we have embarked upon the reform process primarily for our own benefit, i.e. for that of our country and people. Membership of the European Union is, thus, an added value we strive for as the key goal of Serbian foreign policy.
So far, Serbia has opened 10 negotiating chapters, provisionally closing two. We endeavor to maintain the established dynamic in holding Inter-Governmental Conferences and to open, in the coming period, all chapters we prove to be technically prepared for at a particular moment, while every new chapter opened in the accession talks with the EU would only add momentum to the reforms already being implemented.
We are aware that, unlike the other candidate countries, Serbia’s negotiating process has been additionally burdened by conditioning the progress of negotiations on the progress made in the Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. This process is predicated upon both sides involved. However, I would like to stress in particular that all contentious matters in the region need to be addressed in direct talks between the stakeholders, whereas only those related to the EU acquis and its good governance practices should be dealt with in the context of the negotiating process.
What needs to be borne in mind and wherefrom we should draw positive energy in the moments of crisis of faith is the fact that there is a whole range of forums organized to promote regional cooperation – from the South-East European Cooperation Process as the longest-lasting, Western Balkans Six, Brdo-Brioni Process to the Berlin Process – which says that the political will for reconciliation does exist and that it is supported by the citizens expressing unequivocally their wish for a more prosperous future and a better quality of life. Not only is this crucial to us, but such a position is also an essential precondition for the entire region’s successful integration into the EU, into a Europe whole, secure and prosperous, which is of vital importance for citizens of both the EU Member States and the European continent as a whole.
What may be expected of Serbia is to adopt a constructive approach and to be steadfastly committed to the settlement of all disputes and open issues. Serbia remains a responsible actor and participant contributing to regional stability and security despite all the challenges. For this very reason we support the intensification of regional cooperation through the establishment of new bodies such as the Western Balkans Fund, Regional Youth Cooperation Office, Transport Community, the Chamber Investment Forum and many more.
In the good spirit of cooperation and mutual support, I hope that we will, through necessary but reachable compromises, be able to host the Secretariat of the Transport Community, in the territory of the Western Balkans, with a seat in Belgrade.
May I wish Slovenia once again a successful Chairmanship-in-Office of the South East European Cooperation Process and assure you that we will direct all our available capacities towards the deepening of cooperation in the framework of SEECP, but also other regional initiatives and forums we are all part of together.