This afternoon, Serbian President Boris Tadic will visit Stockholm to hand over the country’s application for membership in the European Union. This makes it an important day, and actually a milestone in history for both Serbia and the EU.
Just fifteen years ago, the Balkans were struck by a devastating war, in which Serbia was deeply involved. Following the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, Serbia has moved closer and closer to Europe, which is indeed very positive. In October, the Commission pointed at the positive development of Serbia’s reforms, and this also goes for its cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.
There is a clear goal: all ex-Yugoslav countries will be welcomed as EU members the day they fulfil the criteria. There is a complete consensus about this among Member States.
We have already achieved a lot: Slovenia is a member since five years, Croatia is likely to complete negotiations during 2010 and negotiations may soon start with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Montenegro has applied for membership, and Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo work hard to come closer to the Union.
Last Saturday, the visa regime was lifted for citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This has an enormous impact on countries, where the vast majority of young people have never been abroad.
With visa liberalization and today’s Serbian application, we have taken a great and important leap forward towards integrating the entire Balkan in the EU. This means yet another step towards a Europe, where common problems are solved through discussions – and not through war. And this is the whole idea of European integration.