Serbia and Kosovo*: historic agreement paves the way for decisive progress in their EU perspectives
Brussels (22 April 2013) - ‘Serbia and Kosovo have proved they can both focus on the future rather than staying entangled in the past. Our recommendations today are therefore clear: both Serbia and Kosovo deserve to move on decisively in their EU perspectives. This is good news for the people in Serbia and Kosovo, and in the whole region’ added EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.
The European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy issued today joint reports on the progress in European integration made by Serbia and Kosovo, three days after Belgrade and Pristina struck a landmark deal in the EU-facilitated dialogue.
Given the progress achieved, the Commission recommends to EU member states that negotiations be opened with Serbia on EU accession, and with Kosovo on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU.
"The recommendations to open negotiations for EU membership with Serbia and to open negotiations for an SAA with Kosovo mark a decisive break with the past and a common step towards a European future. I would like to pay tribute to the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo for their courage and vision. I am honoured to have been able to contribute to this process. " said High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission, Catherine Ashton.
The report on Serbia underlines that Serbia has met the key priority of taking steps towards a visible and sustainable improvement of relations with Kosovo. Serbia has actively and constructively engaged in the EU-facilitated dialogue with Pristina. Implementation of agreements reached in the dialogue has continued, including on integrated border management, representation of Kosovo in regional fora, protection of religious and cultural heritage sites, acceptance of university diplomas, civil registry and on customs stamps. The two sides also agreed to start customs collection and to establish a fund for the development of northern Kosovo. Serbia’s cooperation with EULEX has continued to improve in certain areas. Following the "First agreement of principles governing the normalisation of relations" initialled by the two Prime Ministers on 19 April 2013, the report therefore concludes that negotiations for EU accession should be opened with Serbia. The report also points to the efforts made by Serbia to reinvigorate reforms on the rule of law, the independence of key institutions, media freedom, anti-discrimination policy, protection of minorities and business environment, as well as to the country’s positive contribution to regional cooperation. These efforts will have yet to be sustained over time.
The report on Kosovo highlights that Kosovo has delivered on a set of short-term priorities of last year's feasibility study in the fields of rule of law, public administration, protection of minorities and trade. The Commission therefore recommends the opening of the negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Such an agreement would be an important step for Kosovo on its path towards the EU: a key element of the enlargement process, it liberalises trade with the EU and establishes common political and economic goals.