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SPEECH/ 10/73

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement following the meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cevtcovi ć

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Joint press point

Brussels, 5 March 2010

Good afternoon. I am pleased to welcome the Prime Minister of Serbia Mirko Cevtković. His country can really be proud of some of its recent achievements. 2009 was indeed a very good year for Serbia as far as EU integration in concerned.

The visa liberalisation regime was approved, the Interim Agreement entered into force and Serbia submitted its application for EU membership. All these steps testify Serbia's strong commitment to move forward on the EU integration path.

This is a commitment that I and the Commission fully support.

I have ensured Prime Minister Cevtković that the Commission is ready to prepare a thorough and objective Opinion on Serbia's application as soon as the EU Council requests us to do so.

I would like to encourage Serbia to pursue further progress on key EU integration areas.

It is fundamental for Serbia to guarantee an independent and efficient judiciary. Let me also stress again that full co-operation with the ICTY is essential.

It is also essential good regional co-operation. Active engagement with neighbouring countries towards solving pending regional and bilateral issue is a key element of European integration.

The EU integration path is certainly not an easy one. It is very demanding, at any time, and even more so at this time when there are important economic difficulties.

I am fully aware of the economic and financial constraints Serbia is going through and I praise the Serbian government's efforts to put the country again in a growth path. It is not easy sometimes to take some of these decisions but we believe that it is in the overall strategic interest of Serbia to bring prosperity, social and economic progress to its people.

We stand ready to continue our financial assistance to the Serbian government provided, of course, that the programme of reforms is carried out.

We believe the pursuit of reform is also the best way to prepare the country for the European integration process.

In this difficult path to reach its due place in Europe, Serbia can count on our active support.

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