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Minister Bonino in Belgrade and Pristina – European integration, regional cooperation and bilateral relations

Italy supports Serbia and Kosovo’s efforts toward European integration, not least in light of the fact that the European incentive has proven to be decisive in placing both countries on the road toward normalising relations, which culminated with the accord signed on 19 April. European integration will therefore be the main focus of Minister Emma Bonino’s visit to Belgrade and Pristina (18 and 19 June), in addition to regional cooperation and bilateral relations.

Goal is to open Belgrade’s accession negotiations

The Belgrade leg of the minister’s visit takes place in advance of the 27-28 June meeting of the European Council, which will have to set a date for the opening of Serbia’s EU accession negotiations and for the launch of negotiations on an Association and Stabilisation Agreement (ASA) with Kosovo – both goals that Italy has campaigned for at length in Brussels.

Italy has been the European partner most dedicated to encouraging the launch of a new political process in Serbia, which, despite the difficult financial picture, is striving to enact reforms, strengthen its relations with the EU and make significant improvements in relations with its neighbours.

Italy a top investor in Serbia

Italy is currently Serbia’s top investor and, in the first 4 months of 2013, came out as its top trade partner. Within the framework of the Italo-Serbian Strategic Partnership, the second intergovernmental summit, chaired by the heads of State and Government, was held in Belgrade on 8 March 2013; the next will take place in October in Ancona. Strong bilateral collaboration is ongoing not only in economic-industrial sectors, but also in cultural, judiciary and environmental sectors.

Encouraging normalization in Serbian-Kosovar relations

The 19 April accord with Serbia will make it possible for Kosovo to strengthen its statehood and control over its territory, and further goals include: a leap in quality in relations with the EU through an ASA and the liberalisation of Schengen visas (still a requirement for the citizens of Kosovo, unique among the countries of the region), an increased number of acknowledgements (which remains below the 100 threshold) and participation in the main regional cooperation forums.

As Belgrade has been, Pristina must be encouraged to pursue normal relations, in the awareness that the real challenge lies in the actual application of agreements reached. On 14 June, Kosovo was admitted into the Council of Europe Development Bank, to which Italy lent its support. Italy also intends to continue to play an active and prominent role in urging both parties to hasten to implement all agreements and pursue the process of reconciliation.

The excellence of existing bilateral relations is corroborated by Italy’s long-term involvement in the principal international peace missions.

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