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Minister Bonino in Belgrade – Italy to urge EU to set a date for the opening of negotiations

Italy’s commitment to obtain a firm start-date for Serbia’s EU accession negotiations from the European Council of 27-28 June was underscored by Minister Emma Bonino in all her institutional encounters in Belgrade. Serbia, she observed, should be rewarded for the determination it has shown in establishing dialogue with Pristina, enacting the reforms required by Europe and striving for national reconciliation.

Pristina-Belgrade accord deserves acession negotiations start-date

In her meetings with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, Premier Ivica Dacic and Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkic, Bonino emphasized Serbia’s immense progress in its pursuit of European integration. “It is the EU’s historic mission to reunite the families of Europe”. “I believe that the accession process is important for Serbia, but for Europe as well”, she specified, observing that “the 19 April Belgrade-Pristina accord and the measures for its application are deserving of a firm date for the start of accession negotiations”, she said, adding that “we will concentrate our efforts on this while preparing for the summit at the end of June”, and pointing out that Belgrade could not be made subject to any other conditions by Brussels.

Nikolic thanks Italy for EU support

Serbia has done everything it was asked to do to obtain a date for the launch of accession negotiations, observed President Nikolic, and the European Council would be making a “serious mistake” if it were not to send a positive signal to Belgrade. Nikolic, Premier Dacic and head of Serbian diplomacy Mric all thanked Italy for its constant support for Serbia’s European integration process and agreed, along with Minister Bonino, on the excellent status of bilateral relation: Italy is Serbia’s top commercial trade partner and investor, with more than 500 Italian firms giving jobs to over 20,000 people.

Next bilateral summit in Ancona in the autumn

During her visit, Minister Bonino announced that the next bilateral summit – the third after those of November 2009 in Rome and March 2012 in Belgrade – would be held in the autumn, most probably in Ancona. “We wish to continue to develop our relations in all sectors – political, economic and cultural”, Premier Dacic explained, underscoring that last year Italy had been Serbia’s third-ranked trade partner after Germany and Russia, and that it had taken first place in the first four months of this year.

Italy champions normalised Serbia-Kosovorelations

Minister Bonino goes on to Pristina on 19 June. Italy is a firm believer in Kosovo’s European prospects, 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. 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.