"Serbia to join EU defence programs"

BELGRADE -- Numerous opportunities for cooperation with the European Defence Agency (EDA) are opening up to Serbia, EDA Executive Director Claude-France Arnold has said.

She spoke for Tanjug ahead of her first visit to Belgrade.

Arnold said she looked forward to discussing Serbia's inclusion in EDA's programs with the defense minister, chief of the general staff and military technology experts.

The EDA is part of the Council of the EU and its mission is to coordinate improvements to defense and military technology, and Serbia became in December last year the only country outside the EU besides Switzerland and Norway to have a cooperation agreement with the EDA, Arnold pointed out.

Serbia gained access to the EDA database and can join the agency's programs under the same conditions as EU members, the difference being that it does not have to contribute financially, she explained, adding that Serbian officials had so far shown interest in mine clearing and training programs.

The EDA, unlike NATO, does not have a developed system of partner cooperation, but instead each country is free to suggest projects and choose those it wishes to join, she said.

As a relatively new partner to the EDA, Serbia has yet to set the parameters of this cooperation, which is the main reason for this visit, she remarked.