Italy "in favor of giving Serbia date on June 28"

BELGRADE -- Italy will request granting of the starting date for the EU accession talks with Serbia on June 28, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino has said.

(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)

She stressed that Belgrade has a strategic role in the region and that the Serbian government is seriously engaged in the process of reforms.

If it depended only on Rome, Serbia would get a date for the beginning of the EU accession talks on June 28, Bonino stated, and added that Italy, which has believed in Serbia's "return to Europe" more than anyone else, "will maximize its engagement in order to achieve this result."

The Italian official spoke the Belgrade-based daily Većernje Novosti ahead of her Tuesday's visit to Belgrade.

She said that the progress which was made in the in the last few months, particularly the results in the dialogue with Priština, was unthinkable only a year ago.

"The agreement on April 19 is an epochal shift in the recent history of the Balkans in terms of the European perspective and it has moved an irreversible process. For all these reasons, we expect the European Council to recognize Serbia's efforts late in June and give Serbia a date for the beginning of the accession talks. We believe that the moment has come to recognize the courage and determination that the Serbian government has showed," Bonino said.

The Italian minister said that her country "appreciates the efforts that the Serbian government is making in order to adjust to the EU legacy in a number of very important areas such as strengthening of the law, the justice system reform, the fight against corruption and the initiatives launched with a view to reestablishment of relations with neighboring countries."

She said that there is no danger of abolishment of Serbia's visa free regime with the EU countries.

"The freedom of movement of the Serbian citizens in the EU is vital in the EU integration process and it is the crucial moment which gives Serbs a sense of belonging to the European area," Bonino said.