Italy strongly supports the European integration of the Western Balkans, and will do everything possible in the European Council of late June to see that start-dates are set for negotiations on an Association and Stabilisation Agreement (ASA) with Kosovo and on Serbia’s EU accession. This was the message that Minister Emma Bonino carried to the Serbian and Kosovar authorities she met with on her visit to Belgrade and Pristina, her first trip abroad as foreign minister.
EU Council set a start-date with Belgrade
In her institutional meetings in Belgrade, Minister Emma Bonino underscored Italy’s strong commitment to convincing the EU Council to set a precise date for the start of Serbia’s accession negotiations. Serbia was to be rewarded, she stressed, for the determination it has shown in undertaking dialogue with Pristina, enacting the reforms requested by Europe and pursuing regional reconciliation.
Pristina-Belgrade accord deserte a 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 Mrkic 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 committed to Serbia-Kosovo normalisation
Italy’s support for Kosovo’s European integration and the development of bilateral collaboration were the main focus of Minister for Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino’s meetings in Pristina, on the second leg of her trip, with Prime Minister Hashim Thaci Minister for Foreign Affairs Enver Hoxhaj. 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 efforts toward normalising relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Italy will continue to play an active role in the process, whose real challenge lies in the effective application of agreements reached. At the same time, Minister Bonino underscored the good status of relations between Kosovo and Italy, which is that Balkan country’s second-ranked trade partner.