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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Statement by Commissioner Štefan Füle following his meeting with Vuk Jeremić, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia
Brussels, 23 June 2011
I was very happy to meet Minister Jeremić at this crucial juncture for Serbia. We met already this week at the Western Balkan Forum in Luxembourg, an important gathering of the European Union states with the foreign ministers of the Western Balkan countries.
This year offers, potentially, a new momentum in enlargement as far as the Western Balkans is concerned, with Croatia being in the final stage and, let me add, going about this in a credible way.
Indeed, the year 2011 brings a huge opportunity for Serbia to move closer to EU accession, as the European Commission is actively preparing its Opinion on Serbia's membership application.
The EU recognises the arrest of Ratko Mladić on 26 May and his transfer to The Hague on 31 May as a major achievement. This was made clear last Monday in the Foreign Affairs Council and in the EU-Western Balkan Forum. This important milestone for Serbia should help to ease reconciliation in the region. We have also noted Serbia's commitment to locate and arrest the only remaining fugitive from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Goran Hadžić.
I have already called on Serbia to build on this momentum by further intensifying its reforms. The accession criteria and the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process are well known, and fulfilment of the political criteria will be crucial for a positive Opinion, which could open up the next steps in Serbia's road to the EU (such as candidate status and possibly opening of accession negotiations).
I have noted a first set of positive results, such as, the adoption of the new law on the financing of political activities by the Serbian Parliament on 14 June, and the amendment of the law on Members of Parliament on 25 May. Serbia now needs to continue to devote special attention notably to the rule of law, and the fight against corruption and organised crime. We look forward to the launch of the process on property rights, including restitution.
Expectations are also high as regards inclusive regional cooperation. It is good that dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo has developed with constructive participation from both sides, but now we are waiting to see a first set of positive steps taken.
I told Minister Jeremić that we expect Serbia to deliver credible results on all of the key challenges we identified in the 2010 progress report. If this happens, Serbia will indeed be in a position to expect a positive response from the European Commission in our Opinion later this year.