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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Remarks by President Barroso following his meeting with Prime minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić

Press conference

Belgrade, 29 June 2014

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be back in Serbia, a country which so clearly belongs to our European family. I have just met with Prime Minister Vučić and I look forward to continuing our discussions over lunch with other Government members.

I have congratulated the Prime Minister on his recent appointment and conveyed to him my high expectations regarding the future course of action of his Government.

I´d like to thank you, Prime Minister, for your kind words regarding my commitment to the accession process of Serbia and for the work of the European Commission over the past years.

It is true that we are strong alliance for the strategic goal that is accession of Serbia to the EU.

My visit comes exactly one year after the decision of the European Council to follow the recommendation of the European Commission to open accession negotiations with Serbia.

Today, I want to acknowledge the substantial progress Serbia has made on its path towards EU membership. We have entered a new phase in our partnership.

The Prime Minister and I have been discussing the programme of the Government and I welcome its reform priorities and EU aspirations. I also believe it is positive that accession negotiations have been proceeding smoothly so far. Already 18 Chapters – more than half of all 35 Chapters – entered the so-called "screening" process.

I also welcome the Government's continued attention to improving the rule of law, fight against corruption and organised crime and also commitment fundamental rights, as well as to the reform of the public administration.

One of the key lessons learned from past enlargements of the EU is: the accession process must be transparent and inclusive. After all, EU membership is not an endeavour of a few but the ambition of many, I am sure, of the overwhelming majority of Serbia's people.

The process must therefore involve all key stakeholders, including parliament, independent regulatory bodies, as well as civil society. That is why in discussion with the Prime Minister I welcomed the launch of the National Convention on EU in Serbia on 20 June.

The European Commission is ready to help, and support will continue to be available in the period 2014-2020 through our EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). It will have a strong focus on the rule of law together with enhancing economic governance and competitiveness. Support to infrastructure investments in transport, energy and environment sectors will also be included.

While this is a time of hope and success for Serbia, it is also, unfortunately, a time of pain and despair. Serbia has recently been hit by the worst floods in a century. My sympathies are with the citizens who suffered so severely.

Later today, I will be paying a visit to Obrenovac where I will meet with some of the courageous citizens who were so terribly hit by this tragedy. I wish to emphasise that the EU has been and will continue to stand by Serbia's side throughout these difficulties.

22 EU Member States and the European Commission have sent assistance to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in May 2014 in the largest European civil protection intervention in Europe ever. We will now plan together mid-to-long term reconstruction and disaster prevention. A Donor Conference will take place on 16 July in Brussels. This shows the strong solidarity of the EU with Serbia.

Let me conclude that in the EU we consider Serbia as a reliable partner and a pillar for the stability and development of South Eastern Europe.

I would like to commend the impressive results in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Both parties have shown political foresight, courage and vision in reaching a number of agreements and also results on implementation.

This is one of the priority issues for the EU. We expect the two sides to continue delivering results in the implementation. The high level meetings will hopefully resume soon as there is still much work to be done.

Prime Minister,

You have just asked me and the European Commission to be objective in the assessment of the progress in Serbia. I want to reaffirm that we will be objective and supportive on the path that you and Serbia decided for yourselves.

You have recently said that "the European path is the only possible one for Serbia" and that your "goal is the European Union". I couldn't agree more! The European Union remains deeply committed to work with you and your team to this end, to support your country in what was your decision.

I thank you for your attention.

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