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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Boris Tadić, President of the Republic of Serbia

Press point

Belgrade, 19 May 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I just had a very positive and open meeting with President Tadić with who I have a very good relationship.

We did of course mainly discuss the way ahead on the preparation of the Opinion on Serbia's application for EU membership.

For Serbia, the Opinion offers the concrete possibility of moving closer to EU accession. 2011 is a year of opportunities for our enlargement policy in general - and for Serbia in particular.

Mr President,

I can say that today's visit has strengthened my confidence that Serbia is on the right track. Today, I acknowledged the huge efforts that the Government is putting into EU-related reforms.

That commitment is crucial. Because it is Serbia itself that holds the key to a positive opinion!

Time is running and Serbia still has to tackle important, outstanding issues until the Commission publishes its opinion in October - and of course beyond.

Fulfilling the political criteria is essential in that regard. I expressed my appreciation on the good progress made recently in several areas. And we hope to see additional results, most notably on continued reforms in the judicial system and in the fight against corruption and organised crime. I therefore welcome president Tadic's clear statement.

Regarding cooperation with the ICTY let me be very clear: There is no other way than for Serbia to step up its efforts in the search of the two remaining fugitives. Full cooperation is essential for EU membership, as our Member States and the European Parliament have made very clear. I took good note of the clear position of President Tadić.

Inclusive regional cooperation is also an integral part of the stabilisation and association process which we will carefully assess.

Serbia's authorities have courageously started to turn the page on a not so distant past. It is important to continue this regional reconciliation, the normalization of relations with all your neighbours and the commitment to the rule of law. The EU stands ready to help, assist and mediate in this process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The relations between Serbia and the EU have developed very positively over the last decade:

The Stabilization and Association Agreement is in place and ratification underway;

The visa regime was liberalized, giving the people of Serbia a tangible European freedom. It is now important to combat any misuse of this freedom by organized networks, which could put this big achievement in question;

The EU has also become by far Serbia's biggest trade and investment partner. The Commission, Member States and European Financial Institutions have provided aid of around 9 billion Euros to help you.

Serbia should continue to build on this momentum. In times of crisis, when many face difficulties and disappointment, it is all the more important that statesmen steer a steady course and nations make the right choices to pave the way to a better future.

In this context, let me also say that Serbia's efforts to ensure fiscal discipline during the last few months have been remarkable. I know how difficult and painful it may be to take such steps, but it is also clear that this is an investment for future stability.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

After today's talks, I am confident that Serbia will do its utmost on outstanding challenges so that it can move to the next stage of its accession preparations.

Mr. President,

You can of course count on the Commission's continued advice and full support. It was a pleasure to meet you today. I am happy to see your determination and leadership to achieve Serbia's strategic goal of becoming an EU member. Because that is where Serbia's future lies!

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