"Serbia can quickly achieve EU membership"

BELGRADE -- Greek Deputy FM Dimitris Kourkoulas expressed his belief that Serbia has the capacities needed for a rapid progress in the European Union accession process.

Greece took over the EU presidency on January 1, and Kourkoulas pointed out that preparations for the first EU-Serbia intergovernmental conference, set to take place on January 21, are well underway.

In his interview for the Belgrade-based daily Večernje Novosti, Kourkoulas underlined that Serbia deserved to be approved the start of EU entry talks, reminding that Greece had been trying to help this process, but that the credit goes primarily to the people and the Government of Serbia.

The progress made in the normalization of Belgrade-Priština relations also contributed to the success, as well as the reforms carried out in Serbia, added Kourkoulas, who will preside over the EU's Council of Ministers for the next six months, along with the Greek Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Asked if the fact that Serbia does not recognize the independence of Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed by ethnic Albanians would pose an obstacle to its EU integration, Kourkoulas replied that the EU supports the deepening of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

He noted that Greece did not recognize the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo either, adding that this does not hinder the progress of EU-Kosovo relations.

The Greek minister expressed optimism regarding the pace at which Serbia can complete its EU entry talks, pointing to its efficient state administration.

"We need a stable Serbia for the stability of the entire region,” he said.