EU membership first priority for Serbian government

BELGRADE - Full membership in the European Union is the first priority for the Serbian government, which will strive to complete the accession talks by the end of its term in 2018, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has said.

EU membership first priority for Serbian government

"In that case, Serbia could become a full member of the EU by 2020. All else will depend on the European Union," Nikolic told members of the Council of the European Union Working Party on Enlargement and Countries Negotiating Accession to the Union (COELA) on Thursday in the Palace of Serbia.

Serbia is committed to implementing reforms in all fields, in particular in the rule of law, interior affairs and protection of human and minority rights, Nikolic said.

"We see the new EU approach, which envisions opening the most demanding chapters - Chapters 23 and 24 - at the very beginning of the negotiation process as a step that will contribute to a quicker transformation of the state and society and an acceleration of the negotiation process itself," the Serbian president said.

"We see the European integrations as the quickest and the most efficient way to achieve high standards in all fields that are vital to comprehensive progress," Nikolic noted.

This is also a prerequisite for attracting foreign investments, kick-starting small and medium entrepreneurship and ensuring economic growth and social prosperity in the country, Nikolic added.

Serbia has confronted corruption, which it is trying to eradicate, as well as to create a culture of zero tolerance for corruption, Nikolic said.

"It would be very beneficial for us to open Chapter 32 by the end of the year, not only for the purpose of ensuring financial control of budget spending, but also because that would greatly contribute to a more successful fight against corruption and organized crime," Nikolic said.

"Therefore, we hope that those countries that have not as yet defined their positions on the pace of opening the first chapters will assess this matter in that context as well," Nikolic said.

The European prospects were the key factor that made the success of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue possible, the Serbian president noted.

"The success of the dialogue has demonstrated that the policy of enlargement still represents a strong motivational force in the Western Balkans," he said.

Nikolic expressed hope that, following an assessment of Serbia's efforts and the results it has achieved in normalizing the relations in Kosovo-Metohija, the EU member states will decide that Chapter 35 (which deals with Kosovo) be opened as soon as possible.

The prospective EU membership has also had a positive effect on the Balkan region, which today cooperates on specific projects, resolving open issues through dialogue, Nikolic said.

He also said that he signed the Declaration on Missing Persons with the presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro on August 29 in Mostar, and that the objective of the declaration is to encourage the process of finding missing persons in the region.

Nikolic said that Serbia has recently presented projects aimed at improving regional ties through strengthening the railway and road infrastructure by scrapping customs barriers and establishing a youth association.

"All this proves that the region today is working together and cooperating, and European integrations have contributed to the process of regional cooperation to a great extent," the Serbian president concluded.

Serbia is committed to maintaining the principle of regional solidarity in European integrations, including mutual assistance and experience-sharing, Nikolic said, adding that he also expects the EU to ensure that "everyone's progress is based on their performance and reforms implemented, without imposing an evened-out pace."

COELA chairperson Giorgia De Parolis said that the Committee members have witnessed Serbia's extraordinary efforts and aspirations and added that they fully support the country on its European pathway.

The meeting was also attended by the head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport.

Photo Tanjug - Milos Jelesijevic