Q. – During your forthcoming visit to Belgrade, what will your main messages be?
THE MINISTER – I’m coming to tell the Serbian people that we are, and will remain, at their side on their country’s path to the European Union. We have been and will be actively working within the European Union to speed up closer cooperation with Serbia. After the visa liberalization and entry into force of the Interim Agreement between the European Union and Serbia, we now need to move towards candidate status and opening accession negotiations.
Q. – What do you think about Serbia’s current efforts to move closer to the European Union?
THE MINISTER – Serbia is making huge efforts and I salute them. I know the commitment of President Tadic and the whole government to Serbia continuing her progress towards the European Union. I am delighted that all the 27 recognized these efforts when they decided last December to unfreeze the Interim Agreement in recognition of the progress of your cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. But headway still has to be made in this direction to achieve full and wholehearted cooperation with the Tribunal. The European Commission is optimistic on Serbia’s ability rapidly to find solutions to the various technical problems.
Q. – When can one envisage the Western Balkans and, particularly, Serbia joining the European Union?
THE MINISTER – Over the past few months, very substantial progress has been achieved in Serbia as well as the region’s other countries. I’m thinking in particular of the liberalization of visas. The integration of the region’s countries could of course be faster, but let’s be clear about this: the time required depends on the progress of the candidate States. For this, work, more work and still more work is needed. The technical work expected from each of the States of course, but also the joint work of reconciliation still to be completed between the region’s countries.
Serbia’s candidature, like that of her neighbours, will be judged on its merits. The faster you accomplish the difficult reforms needed to move closer to Europe, the faster you will join the European Union. I know your government’s determination. I am confident that it will redouble its efforts and thereby achieve integration into the European family. We will be there to help it, at every step, until the negotiations are concluded. (…)
Q. – Will Serbia join the European Union with or without Kosovo?
THE MINISTER – Kosovo’s independence is irreversible, there can be no doubt on this score. Of course, the conditions to be fulfilled for the accession, which Belgrade already knows about, don’t include recognition of this independence. But, and we have never hidden this – because among friends we talk frankly –, before joining the European Union, Serbia, like any other candidate State, will have to have settled her problems with her neighbours, all her neighbours, who are also destined to become European Union members. (…)./.