Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-10-24-Speech-3-308"

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"Mr President, I would like to congratulate Mr Kacin for his solid report, which captures the essential aspects of the current state of EU-Serbia relations. I have asked my services to follow up on the recommendations of the report, which has already been useful in the preparation of the Commission’s annual progress report, due to be adopted on 6 November. At the same time we should also appreciate the efforts Serbia has made up to now. Too often, these tend to be forgotten in our debates. Since 2004, Serbia has cooperated in locating and handing over 20 of the 24 ICTY indictees. That shows that our policy of conditionality works. However, ICTY cooperation cannot be a stop-start process, and more needs to be done to achieve full cooperation, especially concerning intensified search operations and access to archives and documents. The Chief Prosecutor will return to Belgrade tomorrow for two days, and the Commission will take her findings strongly into account when making our assessment on the initialling of the SAA agreement. Signature will then depend on full cooperation with the ICTY, and we will assess that together with the Council. This requires Serbia to do everything in its powers to locate and arrest the fugitives and to provide the ICTY with all the necessary information leading to their arrest and transfer to tribunal in The Hague. To conclude, Serbia indeed has tremendous economic, cultural and intellectual potential that is just waiting to be released in the pursuit of the country’s European future. The Commission is fully committed to Serbia’s European perspective. I am convinced that the country can make relatively rapid progress on its European road once it meets the essential conditions. That is crucial, not just for Serbia’s European aspirations, but for the stability and progress of the whole Western Balkans. It is, therefore, high time for Serbia to turn the page on its painful past, and to fully approach its European future. Your report highlights a number of areas where both the European Union and Serbia need to intensify efforts, which I fully support. I particularly agree with the importance granted to visa facilitation and with the call for progress now to be made on visa liberalisation. Precisely for that reason, the Commission has indicated its intention to start a dialogue early next year, with each of the countries of the Western Balkans, on a roadmap for visa liberalisation, by defining its requirements and conditions. This issue is of immense importance, not least in terms of giving concrete evidence to the young generation of the region of what Europe really means. We are at a very critical juncture in our relations with Serbia. Over the past fortnight I have had intense discussions with the Council Presidency, with Member States and with the Serbian authorities on the state of affairs. It will come as no surprise that the Kosovo status process and the stabilisation and association agreement, including ICTY conditionality, were the main items. The deadline of 10 December for Kosovo talks is fast approaching, and the work of the international troika is entering a crucial phase. We fully support the work of the EU’s representative, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, and we will leave no stone unturned in seeking a negotiated solution. It is now essential that the two parties – Belgrade and Priština – assume their responsibilities and engage seriously in constructive and creative proposals that can lead to a negotiated, sustainable solution. I have also had intensive discussions with Member States and with the Serbian authorities on the stabilisation and association agreement. That agreement will constitute a political milestone in our relations with Serbia. It will be the gateway towards candidate status for membership of the European Union. The Commission has first negotiated and then finalised the technical work on the draft text of this agreement, which is currently being assessed by Member States in the Council working group. It is working intensively with the Presidency and Member States to complete a legal-linguistic review of the text so that we, as the European Union, are technically ready to sign the agreement soon, provided that the political conditions are in place – namely full cooperation with the ICTY – which should lead to the arrest of the remaining indictees. This is, to my understanding, in line with the recommendation in your report, addressed to the Council. Concerning the ICTY, as I have said before, for the moment I see Serbia’s part of the glass as being half full rather than half empty. I have made it clear to the Serbian Government that signature of the SAA is within reach. It is now a question of political will and translating ability into results. We are ready, once Serbia is ready by meeting the conditions. The ball is now clearly in Serbia’s court."@en1

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