Ashton: Serbia "can be example to others in region"
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced confidence on Monday that Serbia can be the example to others in the region.Source: Tanjug
According to the EU official, the country "can show them what can be achieved through hard work and leadership."
Addressing the Serbian parliament during a special session, Ashton noted that some tough choices will also have to be made in the process.
She said that the volume of new legislation that Serbian MPs will scrutinize, and the debates that they will have will be unprecedented, noting that they will also have a growing role in monitoring the proper implementation of the laws.
"I know that there will be many obstacles to be overcome in setting yourself this course towards EU membership. It is significant and important that all the parties represented in this parliament share the same goal of the EU accession," she said.
She stressed that Serbia has always been a part of Europe, noting that it has opened a new chapter in the relationship with the bloc.
"There is no better proof of this successful relationship that we have been building together in recent times than the results that you have achieved in the normalization of your relations with Priština," Ashton noted.
The EU's foreign policy chief paid her own tribute to Belgrade for "courage, political maturity and statesmanship in the dialogue with Priština", despite many difficult challenges and tough decisions.
"Today, Serbia is praised everywhere for the political leadership that you have shown in this dialogue. You stand as an inspiration to others in this region and beyond," the EU's foreign policy chief said.
She said that Serbia is an important political partner of the EU, underscoring that the country's contribution to better cooperation and improved relations with its neighbors are pivotal to the stability of the entire Western Balkans.
"I want to look forward to your playing an even greater role in fostering inclusive and effective regional ties," she said, adding that Serbia can also help make an important contribution in helping Bosnia-Herzegovina break the current political stalemate.
According to Ashton, Serbia has an important role as an EU partner in promoting the shared values of the neighborhood policy, but also as "a partner of growing stature in the international arena."
Noting that in 2015 Serbia will take on the chairmanship-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), she said that it is a clear signal of the confidence of the international community in Serbia.
She warned that the EU is a rigorous process, adding that the normalization of relations with Priština, the establishment of the rule of law and economic reforms lie ahead of Serbia.
"The dialogue with Priština has been a real success and comprehensive normalization of relations is the key part of the accession process, so we will continue the dialogue," she said.
Ashton cautioned that progress in the rule of law determines the speed of the accession process as a whole.
Speaking about economic challenges, she said that the key emphasis should be put on economic governance, competitiveness, growth and sustained recovery.
"These economic reforms will help Serbia too to meet the accession criteria, converge with the EU economy and bring about jobs and better social conditions and society," said the EU's foreign policy chief.
Serbia’s chief negotiator in accession talks with EU Tanja Miščević said that European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton came to Belgrade Monday to offer support for the new government and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić in the process of European integration and in tough economic reforms ahead.
“This is a very important symbolic gesture of the European Union, and her personal one. She came to Belgrade as an EU representative to offer support to the new government, the prime minister and members of the government in the European integration process; and not only in that, but also, as she herself said, in the tough economic reforms,” Miščević told Tanjug.
Miščević said that the talks she had with Ashton today focused on concrete assistance through EU funds, bilateral assistance provided by EU member states, and exchange of experiences in important areas such as judiciary and education.
Asked if they touched on the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština, Miščević said that they did not talk much about it, but will discuss it in the future.
Ashton also on Monday met with the president and the prime minister of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić and Aleksandar Vučić.