European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Speech at the inauguration of President Nikolic
Inauguration of President Nikolic, Belgrade
11 June 2012
Thank you, President, for inviting me to the ceremony for your inauguration.
I have come today to express my deep attachment to Serbia, to Serbia's people and their efforts to modernise their country, and to Serbia's European Integration, the best tool to achieve this. Serbia is now a candidate country for EU accession. It is expected to resolutely continue on its road to the EU. In the aftermath of the elections, its institutions are expected to get back to work and resume an ambitious path of reforms for preparing for accession. There are many urgent challenges that need to be tackled without delay. In the context of the economic and financial crisis, Serbian citizens are also waiting for a comprehensive response to safeguard macro-economic stability and create growth and jobs. We hear and share these concerns and the EU will be your staunchest supporter and will stand side by side with you, your government and the citizens of Serbia.
I welcome the commitments you have taken, Mr President, regarding the continuity of institutions which today's ceremony exemplifies. I am encouraged that this is conducive for a rapid government formation and inclusive constructive cooperation across the political spectrum and institutions.
I also welcome that your first official visit abroad will be to Brussels to visit the institutions of the European Union on 14 June. This is a clear sign of the priority you attach to Serbia's European orientation and your intention to continue the work of your predecessor President Tadic to whom I also pay a special tribute today.
There is still serious work ahead for Serbia before it can be expected that the Commission recommends opening accession negotiations. We will be reviewing progress in our next progress report on Serbia, in October. There are no hidden expectations or agenda. We will in simple terms look into:
First, the progress that Serbia has made in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and further normalisation of relations.
Second, continuity and delivery of reforms, in particular in key areas like the judiciary and the fight against corruption.
President, I came today to underline that the European Union and the region need Serbia to keep the pace on enlargement policy and an EU oriented reform process at the heart of the next government's agenda.
It is the European Union's policy to provide help to each and every country to advance in their European integration and by doing so provide also a clear perspective for the region as a whole. A perspective which can help attract badly needed investment; a perspective that can act as the catalyst for the profound transformation your economies and societies have to undergo and a perspective that can bring a better life and prosperity to the citizens of the Western Balkans.
We have seen visible progress in the last two years in the region. Croatia will become the 28th member state of the European Union in one year's time. Montenegro will hopefully open accession negotiations as from the next European Council at the end of June.
Regional cooperation is a matter close to my heart and Serbia as an inclusive actor in the region will be able to make a difference to both regional cooperation and reconciliation, an area where both deeds and words are vital to move us forward.
For the progress of the entire region and in light of the good level of relations that Serbia has established in recent years with its neighbours, it will be paramount that you, as the new President, pass very clear and forthcoming messages and deliver on the promises that you have made to the Serbian people. Working through concrete deeds and delivering on the expectations of your people and of the region as whole will bring Serbia closer to the EU.
As the granting of candidate status has shown, the EU is eager to move Serbia forward on its EU path.
I am looking forward to the ever further deepening of the relations between the EU and Serbia and to working closely with you President and all Serbian institutions on this common and rewarding objective. You can and all others present here today can count on my personal support and commitment as well as that of the European Commission.