EU urged to "keep focus on Western Balkans"

Serbian Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić said in Berlin on Wednesday it was "vital for the EU to keep its focus of attention on the Western Balkans."

Source: Tanjug
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According to him, the reason is that "European perspective is the key factor when it comes to improvement of regional cooperation and success in the Belgrade-Priština dialogue."

Addressing the sixth conference of South-East European ministers of foreign affairs organised by the Aspen Institute, Dačić said that the success of the Belgrade-Priština dialogue has shown that the enlargement policy still represents a strong driving force for the Western Balkans, and asserted that the EU is an inextricable factor in the promotion of peace and stability in the region.

This is why it is essential for the European Union to keep its focus of attention on the Western Balkans, Dačić told the conference in Berlin, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. He also "expressed the belief that this is also in everyone's best interest."

"We expect the topic of enlargement to remain in the focus of attention of the EU and its member countries during the mandate of the new European Commission and the new composition of the European Parliament," Dačić said.

Serbia is committed to the continuation of an active and constructive policy of regional cooperation and normalization of the relations with Priština, as confirmed by the staging of the regional conference of Western Balkan ministers of foreign affairs and economy on economic management and connections in Belgrade on October 23, Dačić said.

Serbia's key foreign policy priority is embodied in full EU membership and the vision of a joint European future is the vision shared by everyone in the Western Balkans, he noted.

Full EU membership for regional countries is regarded as the outcome of joint efforts and partnership between the Western Balkans and the EU, Dačić stated and added that the EU and its institutions are asked to provide any relief in terms of fulfilment of membership criteria.

"Serbia is ready for deeper cooperation with a view to accelerating the region's European integration, both with the countries that have made considerable progress in the EU integration process and with those that are yet to carry out key steps in the area," Dačić said.

At the same time, we consider it exceptionally important for everyone to make progress on the EU path in keeping with their own results, without any imposed synchronization of accession pace, Dačić stated.

"Serbia's reform achievements were positively qualified in the latest European Commission report on the progress in the European integration process," Dačić said and added that the country will invest intensified efforts to strengthen rule of law and public administration reforms and improve freedom of the media and freedom of expression, as well as conclude the search for a solution to the problem of public deficit and adequate incentives for private sector development.

EU support to the implementation of infrastructure projects is exceptionally important for the Western Balkan region, since the projects aim to connect the region in the transport and energy sectors, which will contribute to greater attractiveness of the region when it comes to investments, he noted.

In this context, Dačić welcomed the European Commission's announcement that EUR 1 billion worth of IPA funds would be used for infrastructure projects in six IPA beneficiaries in the Western Balkans in the period from 2014 to 2020, and he also greeted the intention to attract private capital with the help of combined efforts by EU funds and international financial institutions so as to ensure funding for infrastructure projects in the region to the total value of at least EUR 10 billion.

Dačić expressed gratitude to the German government and Chancellor Angela Merkel for the initiative and personal involvement in the organisation of the Conference on the Western Balkans in August, which was particularly important because major regional infrastructure projects were launched and closer economic cooperation in the region was initiated on this occasion.

Announcing the gathering, the German Foreign Ministry said that "foreign ministers of Serbia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia and Montengro are expected to attend the conference," and that German and British foreign ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Philip Hammond sponsored the event.

According to announcements, the ministerial meeting would be followed by a segment dedicated to economic measures and a panel discussion about the Western Balkans on the path of European integrations and sustainable progress and reforms.

Dačić's attendance at the conference will also be an opportunity for discussions with Steinmeier and Hammond, regional foreign ministers and other prominent participants of the conference, the Serbian MFA said earlier.

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