Serbia, EU closer to signing of stabilization agreement

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Serbia and the European Union (EU) moved one step closer to the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) on Monday after both sides completed the technical negotiations on SAA, which is the first step for Serbia to join the EU.

„I’m happy to announce that we have now reached a technical deal on the content and text of SAA,” said European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn at a joint press conference with visiting Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic. Meanwhile, Rehn stressed that „in order to conclude the process, Serbia now must achieve full cooperation with the ICTY (the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).”

He said whether Serbia fully cooperates with the ICTY is a necessary condition for the final signing of SAA. ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte will be making her last visit to Serbia on Sept. 24 before leaving the post in December. „Her findings will provide critical elements in our assessment of Serbia’s cooperation with the ICTY,” said Rehn. „SAA is an important step in relations between Serbia and EU,” said Rehn, adding that it will bring concrete trade and economic benefits for Serbia. Djelic said that Serbia hopes both sides will initial the SAA in the autumn.

„I hope Commissioner Rehn will come to Belgrade to initial the agreement,” he said. He said that the technical deal on the SAA recognized some aspects of Serbia’s economy, and that „overall it is a good agreement for Serbia. This is a very significant step.” He reiterated cooperation with the ICTY is one of the priorities of the Serbian government and that he was confident del Ponte’s visit would prove that. When asked by reporters on the Kosovo issue, Djelic repeated his government’s position that Serbia is against partition and a full independence of Kosovo. „What is good to the region is to keep Serbia together,” he said.

„Institutionally, we can find compromise, but not to break up Serbia. Integration is always better than disintegration.” He said that Serbia is „full participant” to the process mediated by the Contact Group on Kosovo, but hopes the talks will be „open-ended.” He also pointed out that the issue of Kosovo’s future status and Serbia’s march toward the EU are two „separate issues.” Rehn called for a quick solution to the Kosovo issue. „No one would benefit if the status quo prolonged.

It will only prolong the agony of the Kosovo people, slow down Serbia’s road to the EU ... and have negative impacts on the stability on the West Balkans,” he said. He said everybody in the EU is working seriously and hard for a negotiated settlement of the Kosovo issue because it is a priority for EU. He urged Serbia, Kosovo and other concerned parties to take constructive and creative approaches in order to reach an early agreement on the issue. (english.people)

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