Serbia will continue to provide maximum contribution to the development of the South-East European Cooperation Process

Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic at the Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Dubrovnik:

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by thanking our hosts for the organization of this meeting, for their efforts and performance in the past year, during the Croatian Chairmanship-in-Office.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to attend our today’s meeting, and participate in the debate on the importance of regional cooperation for the stability of the region as a whole.

Distinguished Colleagues,

Serbia’s membership in the European Union continues to be among its foremost foreign policy priorities, because the membership perspective is a strong motivation for its all-embracing reforms that are currently being carried out, giving an impetus to reconciliation and regional cooperation processes in the whole of the Balkans.

Serbia is consistently pursuing its European path, with very good economic indicators. Although the messages coming from the European Union are not always encouraging, we are making intensive efforts to meet the requirements necessary for opening new chapters. We are very grateful to the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU for their support and commitment. We would like the period of the incoming Estonian Presidency to be remembered by Serbia’s opening of a larger number of negotiating chapters. I hope that our interlocutors in Brussels will realize the importance that Serbia’s accession process unfolds at a certain pace, and the serious consequences which might arise in the event of another stalemate. We have, thus far, opened ten negotiating chapters, and provisionally closed two of them. Our goal is to maintain the established dynamics of convening Inter-Governmental Conferences, and to open, in the coming period, all chapters for which we demonstrate at a given moment that we are technically prepared, whereas every new chapter opened in the accession negotiations with the EU is an additional driver in the implementation of our ongoing reforms. We are all aware of the reality that EU accession is predominantly a technical process but, to be honest, it is largely also a political one. It is very important for us to receive assurances of the imminence of Serbia’s EU membership, like the other EU Member States had in their time, because recent years have all seen an increase in the number and complexity of membership criteria while, at the same time, the situation in the EU and in our region has become additionally complicated as a result of great many crises that we have faced together. In the absence of a clear European perspective, it is difficult to expect the region to maintain its stability and continue to pursue its European path.

Unfortunately, unlike that of other EU candidate countries, Serbia’s negotiating process is burdened with the fact that its progress in the negotiations is conditional on the progress made in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. We waited for almost two years before we could open the first negotiating chapters, because there was no one in Pristina to conduct the dialogue with. Nothing of the kind must ever happen again, for Serbia – which is carrying out its reforms wholeheartedly – would thus be penalized for the obstruction created by others. We have all witnessed that not even the agreements reached are being respected, as a result of which, four years have passed and the Association/Community of Serbian Municipalities has not yet been established. Would you be sitting back and waiting, if Belgrade failed to meet its obligations? Would you remain silent if Serbia verbally attacked other regional actors, and expressed territorial aspirations? Having no intention to make our today’s discussion heated, because, in recent months, the regional verbal discourse has already been marked heavily with high tones, I wish to indicate that Serbia expects from the EU: principled approach, consistency and respect of everyone according to their merits. I will, therefore, reiterate our position that all disputed issues should be addressed in appropriate fora, in direct talks between the parties concerned, while only the issues related to acquis communautaire and positive EU practice should be dealt with in the framework of the negotiating process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite certain differences and occasional disagreements between us, caused by unresolved issues from the past, what is most important – and can be seen at the meetings of the Southeast European Cooperation Process as an important political forum, as well as at those of the Western Balkans Six or the Berlin Process – is the existence of political willingness for reconciliation and a better future for all the people in the region. Furthermore, the European path that all of us in Southeastern Europe have opted for is important not only for the people in our region, but highly important also for all the people in the European Union, for without a stable and integrated Western Balkans region, there can neither be stability nor security in the EU.

Individual economic development of each of us, as well as the region as a whole, is a prerequisite for the stability of the region, and the continuation of the EU accession process, as well. I believe that the strengthening of economic cooperation, which we have been working on in the effort to establish a regional economic area and particularly to increase European investments in the region, is very important both for the region and investors from the EU, because instead of small and non-competitive markets, there would be a market of 20 million people. I further believe that the region should join efforts against violation of the principle of good economic governance, particularly by fighting corruption and organized crime.

Shortly after the Transport Community Treaty is signed in Trieste, the region will be able to advance in this segment. I would like to ask you, this time again, to support Belgrade in becoming the seat of the headquarters of the Transport Community Secretariat, which would be a logical step, because the South East Europe Transport Observatory (SEETO) has been operating successfully in Belgrade for more than 10 years, and should transform into the future Transport Community.

I would also like to underline that Serbia fully supports the further intensification of regional cooperation as the core foundation of regional stability. Serbia will continue its efforts aimed at maintaining peace and stability in the region, as well as addressing the existing political and economic problems, which can be dealt with solely through an open and continued dialogue. We must turn to the future, because we have been accusing each other of the past, for far too long, with no benefits to any of us. We must continue to work together, having regard for each other, and above all, respecting our common interests, which are many.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Slovenia every success in the assumption of the SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office.

May I conclude by underscoring that Serbia is open for cooperation with the incoming SEECP Chair-in-Office, and that it will continue, with all the available capacities, to make its maximum contribution to the development of the SEECP and other forms of regional co-operation.

Thank you.