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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Remarks by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Tomislav Nikolić, President of the Republic of Serbia
Belgrade, 29 June 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank President Nikolić for his very warm welcome and once again, Mr President, my thanks for your sincere words regarding my personal commitment and commitment of European Commission to Serbia and to the European path that was decided for Serbia by Serbian people.
President Nikolić and I have had a fruitful meeting today, very open and friendly conversation where we have discussed Serbia’s relations with the EU on the path towards the membership in the EU. Serbia has entered a new phase in the process with the opening of negotiations exactly one year ago, following the decision of the European Council, which was an unanimous decision of the Member States taken after a proposal was made in this direction by the European Commission.
The accession process is moving at a good pace, thanks to the commitment and dedication of the Serbian negotiation teams and its leaders. I have expressed to the president that the country can rely on the full support of the Commission to continue in this Our support is also given to the ambitious reform programme that the government has committed to.
With regard to the reform programme, we welcome the priority given to economic reform as well as the continued attention paid to ensuring the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime and the reform of the public administration. We believe that even independently from the EU accession process this is important for Serbian people, by its own merits - the importance of having rule of law in a modern country, European country like Serbia.
The EU also stands by Serbia in times of pain. I would like to reiterate my greatest sympathy for the victims of the floods and to present my condolences to the families and friends of the victim. During my visit to Obrenovac today, I have been impressed by the great courage and will of the Serbian people in the face of this tragedy. I visited a school that has more than 1500 students, pupils and the teachers and staff are now rebuilding the school. That is a great example.
I am proud that 22 EU Member States and the European Commission were present alongside Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in this largest European civil protection intervention in Europe ever. It demonstrated in concrete terms the solidarity of the EU to Serbia and its citizens.
Much work still lies ahead and I wish to stress that you can fully count on the support of the EU. The Commission – together with France and Slovenia – is organising a high level Donors Conference on 16 July in Brussels. It is an open conference to all those who want to participate. We hope to make a success out of this event and mobilise additional funding for the needs that are now being assessed in Serbia and also Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I commend the significant progress that has been made in relations to normalising relations with Kosovo. This process of normalization is important. We expect both Belgrade and Pristina to ensure that this progress continues.
Let me say again, as I sad to President Nikolić that we think the role of Serbia is critically important for the enlarged EU. You have a unique role in the western Balkans region, so the fact I came here is precisely a way - also before the end of my mandate - to reiterate on behalf of the European Commission and the EU that we believe this process can be successful so that it can, if this is the wish as it has been stated by Serbian people, bring you to the EU membership. We believe this is going to happen. Some decisions of course are still needed but it can happen if there is political will on both sides as I am sure there is. The fact that you are making progress in this also sends signal to the whole region.
And one personal remark - I became President of the Commission in 2004 just after the big enlargement. So at the beginning of 2004 we were 15 Member States, today we are 28. This shows that despite all the difficulties we are consistent in showing our openness to countries of the Western Balkans and countries of Europe that want to join. I am sure this is also goal of Serbia as it has been sovereignly decided by the Serbian people
It was a pleasure to meet you again in this new phase of EU-Serbia relations. We look forward to continue our very good cooperation.