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xc European Commission
Luxembourg, 25 June 2013
Remarks of Commissioner Štefan Füle at the press conference after the General Affairs Council's (GAC) meeting in Luxembourg
Let me start with Turkey: The European Commission welcomes that the Member States reached agreement to open Chapter 22 (regional policy and coordination of structural instruments) and in principle on the Common Position. The Inter-Governmental Conference and its date will be confirmed in the autumn as will the common position.
This is an important chapter and should help Turkey in its efforts to tackle some of the socio-economic disparities linked to the Kurdish issue. It can also provide support to Turkey in dealing with the consequences and regional impact caused by the Syria refugee crisis.
I believe this is also a clear response to many of those who have been demonstrating peacefully in recent weeks as it should strengthen our efforts to engage with Turkey and re-establish the relevance of the EU-related reforms as the benchmark for Turkey.
Let me repeat my firm conviction that it is in our interest to step up our engagement and I hope we can move also on the EU side to opening of the chapters 23 and 24 which are those most directly linked to the rule of law and also to the fundamental freedoms.
On Serbia: the Ministers have unanimously recommended to open the accession negotiations in line with the Commission’s recommendation of last April. The European Commission expects that on Friday the European Council – based on this recommendation – formally opens accession negotiations with Serbia.
The conclusions also describe the next steps in the procedure, which are the usual ones:
On Kosovo: The ministers have agreed to open negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo. The mandate for the negotiations will be formally adopted this Friday – at the same time as the European Council conclusions.
I am pleased to say that we have an ambitious mandate on the table including all elements of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement: political dialogue, justice, freedom and security, economic and trade policy, and cooperation in a whole host of other important areas.
I welcome these decisions and commitment of the EU because Belgrade and Pristina have themselves made unprecedented steps and efforts towards normalisation of their relations. Today's conclusions recognise the impressive set of achievements on both sides.
This is a good day for both countries. They have delivered on the conditions set last December – and in the view of High Representative Cathy Ashton and my own, they have exceeded our expectations in putting their relations on a new footing.
I see this decision today as another proof of the credibility of the enlargement process: if partners deliver on their homework, the EU – the Member States – deliver on moving that partner to the next stage in the accession process.