Serbia is next EU member state

BELGRADE - Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has thanked European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso for the support for Serbia on its path towards the EU, adding that Barroso has come to visit "Serbia, the next member state of the EU."

At a joint press conference following his meeting with Barroso in Belgrade on Sunday, Nikolic said that Serbia's progress is in part due to all members of the European Commission, especially Barroso, being committed to the idea that Serbia should become a member of the EU in the near future.

The Serbian president said that the aid the European Union has given Serbia after the catastrophic floods in May showed that Serbia can count on a lot bigger European family.

“Who knows how this would have ended up had not a great number of EU member states, and some that are not members, helped us with the equipment that Serbia does not have,” he said.

Nikolic said he and Barroso discussed a donors' conference, to be organized by the the EU in cooperation with the United Nations, where solidarity between the countries of the world and Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia will be put to work.

Speaking about political issues, Nikolic said that Western Balkans’ future is very uncertain without Serbia in the EU.

During the meeting, the two officials also touched on EU acquis Chapters 23 and 24, which deal with issues such as the fight against corruption and crime and public administration reform.

Nikolic added that they also discussed relations with the administration in Pristina, what has been achieved and what is yet to be achieved there, and the implementation of the Brussels agreement.

European Commission President Barroso said that Serbia's EU accession process is advancing at a good pace thanks to the commitment of the negotiating team, and underlined that Serbia can count on the EU's further assistance in the process.

The EC president welcomed the economic reforms, fight against crime and corruption and public administration overhaul.

I believe these are important for the Serbian people irrespective of the EU entry, he said.

Extending condolences to the families of the flood victims, Barroso said that the EU stands by Serbia even at the time of pain and suffering.

Much work lies ahead of us, but you can count on the EU's assistance, he said, noting that a donor conference will be held in Brussels on July 16, with France and Slovenia as organizers and the EU as the host.

Barroso pointed to the significant progress in the normalization of relations with Kosovo, which, as he put it, is certainly very important.

I expect Belgrade and Pristina to ensure that the dialogue continues and advances further, he said.

According to Barroso, Serbia has a unique role in the Western Balkans and its EU accession is of key importance for further EU enlargement in the region.

I have come to reiterate, on behalf of the EU, that the process can succeed, the outgoing president of the European Commission said at the end of his visit to Serbia.

Photo Tanjug, T.Valic