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Brussels, 28 February 2012

Remarks by Štefan Füle Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy at the press conference after the meeting of General Affairs Council

Today is a good day, not only for Serbia and Kosovo but for the enlargement process of the EU in general. I warmly welcome the recommendation of the General Affairs Council to grant candidate status to Serbia and I am confident that the decision will be confirmed by the Heads of states and Government at the European Council later this week. I equally welcome the Council noting positively our intention to initiate a feasibility study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo.

This parallel and balanced move of both Serbia and Kosovo is a clear step forward for the whole region. And it is a deserved reflection of the progress both have made in the dialogue over the past months. A year ago we were celebrating the fact that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was launched. Looking back, we can only but be impressed by the progress achieved since then. I would here like to pay a clear tribute to the political courage that this has required from the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo. I would particularly like to emphasise the significant results reached in the latest round of dialogue. The agreement on regional representation and cooperation has confirmed the commitment of both parties to the fundamental values of effective, inclusive and representative regional cooperation so crucial to the EU and so important also for regional reconciliation.

The Commission will continue to encourage the parties to stay committed to the dialogue and achieve further results – for the good of the people and for the stability of the region.

Candidate status will open a new era in EU-Serbia relations and I expect that Serbia, as a candidate country, will be able to further progress on its reform agenda so as to prepare for the future opening of accession negotiations.

The launch of the feasibility study into a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo also paves the way for further progress of Kosovo towards the EU. This is the EU's main instrument in the Balkans - it is the path every other country has followed. It makes the European perspective a concrete reality.

This is thus a win-win situation for both partners, one of mutual progress and cooperation.

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