Serbia’s EU membership by 2020 “realistic goal”

BELGRADE — Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stated on Thursday that the government in Belgrade has “a realistic goal for Serbia to join the EU by 2020.”

This is the case as it is “ready to carry out reforms despite all difficulties on the pathway,” he was quoted as saying.

The start of Serbia’s EU accession talks was a historic moment not only for Serbia but for Europe as well, Schroeder underlined at the opening of the Serbia-Germany Forum Association.

He said that it is good that the new convocation of the Serbian parliament comprises only parties which are in favor of the EU membership.

“This is not only the wish of the citizens, but also in conformity with the mentality of the Serbian people and their history, and this was also the vision of late Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić,” he said.

Schroeder said he is happy to attend the ceremony marking the beginning of the Forum’s work as he cares a lot about fostering of the Serbian-German relations, adding that this is also important for Europe’s development.

Noting that nothing is so good that it cannot be improved, Germany’s former chancellor expressed hope that the two countries’ close relations will be intensified even further owing to the Forum.

Schroeder said that the importance of the Forum is reflected in the fact that its honorary members are Serbian future prime minister Aleksandar Vučić and Germany’s coordinator for cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership Countries Gernot Erler.

“For Germany, Serbia is the crucial country in the Balkans. The outgoing government has improved the relations with all countries in the region particularly with Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, for which the credit goes to Aleksandar Vučić,” he said.

Schroeder said that the agreement on normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština is not only an important step for Serbia, but also a step towards creation of greater stability in the Balkans.

However, there is still much to be done, he said and expressed belief that the new government will do the job.

The European unification without the Western Balkan countries is not complete and it has to be clear that the EU accession of Serbia and regional countries is not only in the interest of these countries, but also in the interest of the EU, Germany included, he said.

The EU and Germany want the Balkans to be politically stable and economically prosperous, which means that Berlin will support Serbia on its EU pathway both by words and actions, he said.

Schroeder expressed belief that Germany has been and will remain Serbia’s responsible partner on the EU pathway.

Germany has proved this, regardless of the government in power, so in 2000 as part of bilateral assistance it granted Serbia over EUR 1.6 billion, he said, adding that this is more than any other country has ever given.

This has to continue since Serbia still needs support, Schroeder added.

He said that the start of the EU accession talks is important for Serbia since it will assure many investors that they should invest in Serbia, however it is also important for the government headed by Vučić to clearly state its readiness to implement deep-seated reforms which would be supported by the citizens.

The former German chancellor also hosted a reception in Belgrade on Thursday to mark the beginning of the work of the Serbia-Germany Forum Association.

Serbia’s future prime minister, Aleksandar Vučič, and Ružica Đinđić, the widow of Zoran Đinđić, attended as honorary members of the forum.

Serbia’s former and current foreign ministers, Vuk Jeremić and Ivan Mrkić, were also there, as was Minister of Finance Lazar Krstić.

Among the guests was former cabinet minister Kori Udovički and head of the interim city administration in Belgrade Siniša Mali.

German Ambassador to Serbia Heinz Wilhelm also attended the reception, as did a number of other public figures, and members of both countries’ business communities.

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