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Serbian EU application will be milestone in history

2009/09/08

I have just had lunch with Serbia’s Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, who is visiting Stockholm for discussions on future Serbian EU accession. Serbia intends to apply for EU membership this autumn, a process which is welcomed by the Swedish Presidency.

There are still obstacles on the way towards approving Serbia as a candidate state. Some EU Member States, who claim that Serbia is not fully cooperating with the International Tribunal (ICTY) in the Hague, currently block the Stabilisation and Association Agreement for Serbia, which is the first step towards the EU.

My message to Mr Jeremic was that Serbia needs to show and convince both the Commission and all Member States that it is doing everything in its power to live up to the Tribunal’s requirements. It’s only when this is done that we can start handling a Serbian EU application. Thereafter, of hard work remains for Serbia to fulfil the Copenhagen Criteria.

We also touched on the issue of visa liberalisation. Since many years, citizens of Serbia and several other Balkan countries are subject to visa regimes when travelling abroad. Many young Serbs have never visited an EU Member State, and this is why visa liberalisation is such a key issue. Some benchmarks still need to be fulfilled, but hopefully visa-free travel will be a reality as from early next year for Serbia, Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Visa liberalisation as well as a Serbian application for EU membership are steps on the way towards a Union in which all countries of war-struck former Yugoslavia are full members. With this in mind, these events may also be considered milestones in European history. This is a development that the Swedish Presidency will wholeheartedly support.

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