Top Serbian officials meet with EU's Ashton

BELGRADE -- EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said in Belgrade on Tuesday Serbia's leaders had shown "vision and courage in making hard decisions."

According to her, they also showed courage facing "great political challenges, which resulted in all of the EU members deciding to open the accession talks without new requirements."

Ashton commended the progress achieved in the talks with Priština and stressed she was satisfied when she presented that progress to EU members and by being able to say there were tangible results in the implementation of the Brussels agreement.

She said she met on Monday "for the 13th time with Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci" and that she would meet them again, that "the talks would continue in the weeks and months to come."

"There will be no summer break for all, because we have to show progress," she said after a meeting with Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolić, Dačić, and his first deputy, Aleksandar Vučić.

Ashton told a news conference she was happy Serbia had already started preparing for the accession talks with the EU.

"It is a process full of challenges and it is good to see Serbia preparing, she said. The EU is also preparing, the European Commission is preparing a framework for the talks and preparing to present it to the member states," she said.

The decision to open the talks with Serbia was "historic," she said.

"Serbia's work was confirmed by every member of the EU by unanimously deciding to open the accession talks, Ashton said. The decision was made without new requirements," she stressed.

Ashton commended the progress achieved in the talks with Priština and stressed she was satisfied when she presented that progress to EU members and by being able to say there were tangible results in the implementation of the Brussels agreement.

Good steps in the implementation of the Brussels agreement have been taken, and their goal is to improve the life of all in northern Kosovo, Ashton noted.

"Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci confirmed in Brussels on Monday their willingness to continue the efforts," she said.

She said "everywhere she went in the world there was talk of Serbia and the way "its people and leaders" had decided to move towards the EU and normalize their relations with Priština.

List of obligations

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić said on Tuesday Serbia would continue to fulfil its obligations towards the EU at the same pace, but also towards its people when it comes to providing a better life.

Nikolić told a news conference after a meeting with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton they discussed all problems at the meeting, they informed Ashton about what Serbia could do with the people's approval, what should be done and what would be the turning point.

He said they had told Ashton once again Serbia would never recognize Kosovo, and that she responded that the EU knew that and no one was asking Serbia to recognize Kosovo.

"There is an open communication with the provisional institutions in Priština, and there are two points of view, the Serbian one that sees Kosovo as a substantial autonomy and the other that Kosovo is independent, he said. There would never have been an agreement without the EU, and that agreement will probably be the basis for future cooperation," Nikolić pointed out.

"The EU has a list of obligations Serbia has to fulfil," he said.

According to Nikolić, Serbia is aware of its obligations and the government is preparing a team fast that will guide it through the talks.

"It is unlikely that someone can drive Serbia off its European path," Nikolić remarked.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule will be visiting soon in an effort to help Serbia stand together with the other European countries, he stated.

"Serbia, as a sovereign country that knows its interest and obligations, will know how to fulfil its obligations and the interest of its people," he concluded.

All topics of interest

Ivica Dačić said on Tuesday that Belgrade and Priština should continue the dialogue on all topics of interest, and not only on those that are being imposed by others, but specified that further dialogue does not mean that the agreement is heading in a direction of some legally-binding document or recognition of Kosovo's independence.

Dačić said this in response to the question as to whether there is some time-frame for the other part of the agreement, which was posed to the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton by a Reuters reporter.

"We must also talk about other things, such as the issues of state and private property, the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church, cultural heritage, church property. There are many topics there, and we will have to discuss many things in the coming period,” the prime minister said.

“That does not mean that the agreement is heading in the direction, as some are announcing, of some legally binding deal, or recognition,” Dačić stressed.