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Brussels, 25 October 2010

Statement by Commissioner Füle on Council's decision to forward Serbia's application to the Commission

I welcome today's decision of the Council to refer to the Commission Serbia's application for EU membership. This opens an important new phase in EU-Serbia relations.

The Commission will engage immediately in the preparation of its Opinion on Serbia's application for membership. In a matter of few weeks we plan to hand over to our Serbian interlocutors the questionnaire that seeks information on Serbia's preparedness for opening accession negotiations with the EU.

The Commission will perform a thorough, objective and qualitative assessment of the merits of Serbia on all three Copenhagen criteria for accession: political, economic and the ability to take on the obligations of EU membership.

Today's decision is the expression of the strong EU support to Serbia and its leadership. This support is paralleled by equally high expectations.

The level and effectiveness of Serbia's cooperation with ICTY will be paramount to achieve a positive opinion on Serbia's membership application. I hope Serbia will be able to show to the ICTY prosecutor, during his next visit, that its efforts have been intensified since June. Serbia has in the last years achieved a credible record. We hope to see it now cover the last mile and locate and arrest the two fugitives at the earliest opportunity.

Serbia will also have to continue its reform efforts, in particular in the area of rule of law. The progress report that will be published on 9 November shall serve as a roadmap for the Serbian authorities to undertake every effort in order to feed into the findings of the opinion.

Finally, there are high expectations as regards good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation. Serbia made already a number of important steps towards its neighbours. We hope to see it engage constructively in the dialogue with Kosovo, in a European spirit.

The credibility of the enlargement policy is a joint responsibility. On our side, we need to deliver on our commitment, and reward achievements in the enlargement countries with progress on their path towards the Union. On their side, the candidate and potential candidate countries need to fulfil the membership conditions, so that our Member States are assured that this is a quality process that will bring into the EU countries that will make it not only larger, but also stronger.

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