Serbia urged to work harder toward meeting EU membership requirements

10:07, May 20, 2011      

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Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic (R) meets with visiting President of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso in Belgrade on May 19, 2011. (Xinhua/Vladimir Milovanovic)

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged Serbian officials to apply greater diligence toward the goal of EU membership during his official visit to Belgrade on Thursday.

After meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, Barroso stressed the importance of the current reform process with respect to the future of Serbia's European integration. Barroso also offered words of encouragement to his hosts, but underscored Serbia's obligations for EU accession.

"My message to Serbian citizens is clear: we consider Serbia a member of the European family and now have to work together in order to achieve a common goal and that is the membership of Serbia in the EU," said Barroso during a joint news conference with Cvetkovic.

Nonetheless, Barroso put the onus on the Serbian government to maintain an adequate pace in implementing these necessary reforms.

"Time is running out and the key is in the hands of Serbia. The criteria must be met, the judicial reform, fight against organized crime and corruption to attain the goal," said Barroso. "Of key importance is cooperation with The Hague Tribunal and we expect that Serbia will do everything it can with respect to this." The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is located in The Hague.

Serbia is awaiting the findings of Serge Brammetz, chief prosecutor of the ICTY, which form the basis of a report on Serbia' s cooperation to be presented before the UN Security Council in June. During his visit to Belgrade last week, Brammertz said Serbia could have done more to ensure the apprehension and extradition of high-profile war crime fugitives. This issue, above all others, seems to present the major obstacle to Serbia attaining candidate status for the EU.

"There is still much that needs to be done," said Barroso, adding, "our commitment to bring Serbia closer to EU is strong.. but it is important that Serbia stays on track as we enter the next stage in relations."

The Serbian prime minister used the opportunity to emphasize the collaborative effort of Serbia with EU institutions.

"We received recognition for what we have done and support for what remains to be done in this current year. We have accepted an obligation to finish the work as planned, and agreed that all problems give rise to increased attention and that we resolve them together with the EU, " said Cvetkovic.

The current Serbian government has committed itself to EU candidate status by year's end, or at the very least, before the end of its mandate which expires in a year.

Source: Xinhua

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