Press release

Foreign Secretary urges Serbia to continue EU progress

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

William Hague visits Belgrade to offer encouragement to Serbia at a crucial moment in its progress towards EU membership.

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The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, visited Belgrade on 30 May as part of a regional visit which includes Zagreb. During his visit to Belgrade he met President Nikolic, Prime Minister Dacic, Deputy Prime Minister Vucic and Foreign Minister Mrkic. The Foreign Secretary’s visit comes shortly after Serbia and Kosovo agreed on an implementation plan for their historic 19 April agreement.

The Foreign Secretary said:

It was a pleasure to visit Serbia at this crucial moment in its progress towards EU membership. I am pleased to have continued the bilateral dialogue that I began last year with President Nikolic, Prime Minister Dacic, Deputy Prime Minister Vucic and Foreign Minister Mrkic. We have had positive and wide-ranging discussions.

The UK remains a strong supporter of enlargement of the EU to include all countries in the Western Balkans. Since I was last in Belgrade in October 2012, Serbia has made significant progress in normalising its relations with Kosovo and coming closer to meeting the European Council’s criteria. This was shown most clearly by the historic agreement with Kosovo, reached on 19 April.

The European Council will decide on 28 June whether Serbia has met the criteria to receive a start date for accession negotiations, as set out in March 2012. We hope that Serbia will have done enough by then for member states to feel ready to award the date, with the benefits that brings. Whatever decision is taken by the Council in June, it will recognise Serbia’s progress. It will be equally clear that there is more to do, strengthening internal reforms, particularly on the rule of law, strengthening relationships and co-operation with all countries in the region, and fully implementing all agreements reached so far.

I was pleased today to hear firm commitments from the Serbian leadership to implement the 19 April agreement and further normalise relations with Kosovo. I have been assured that Serbia will use the short remaining time between now and the end of June to redouble its efforts to make implementation real. Also that this will include delivering agreements on energy and telecommunications, and starting work on dismantling Serbian security structures in line with the implementation agreement. The key priority is to make tangible and sustainable progress by taking practical measures which will convince all EU member states that progress towards normalisation is now irreversible.

Published 31 May 2013