Brussels, 1 September 2011
Statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle following his meeting with Tomislav Nikolić, leader of the Serbian Progressive Party
Today I met Tomislav Nikolić, the leader of the Serbian Progressive Party. Our meeting took place in the framework of my regular meetings with representatives of opposition parties from the Enlargement and Neighbourhood countries.
Mr Nikolić shared his assessment of the current state of play in Serbia's reforms and politics. He also raised issues relating to Serbia's European integration process, in view of the European Commission's forthcoming Opinion on Serbia's membership application.
I addressed Mr Nikolić's concerns related to the requirements for Serbia to obtain the Candidate Status this year, and whether recognising Kosovo is a precondition for Serbia's further Euro-integration.
Concerning candidate status, I explained that the Opinion on 12 October will be a thorough, objective and qualitative assessment of the merits of Serbia on the basis of well-known criteria, which have been applied consistently to all applicant countries:
Compliance with the Copenhagen criteria for accession
These include political criteria, economic criteria and the ability to take on the obligations of EU membership. In this context, Serbia's recent internal reforms will be thoroughly examined and assessed.
Respect for the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process
Cooperation with International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and inclusive regional cooperation are key elements of this. Regarding ICTY cooperation, Serbia has achieved remarkable results. In regional cooperation, Serbia's active engagement is welcome. It is vital that the resumed Belgrade-Pristina dialogue now delivers further results that will improve the lives of people and enhance peace, security and stability in the region.
On the second issue of concern, I recalled the well-known Commission position that, while recognizing Kosovo is not a formal condition for Serbia's European integration process, solutions need to be found to a number of outstanding issues which still prevent the normalisation of relations.
I encouraged Mr Nikolić and his party, as well as all Serbian political actors eager to advance Serbia's European aspirations, to act constructively and responsibly in the forthcoming period.