659 Meeting of the Permanent Council
The European Union welcomes Ambassador Urstad back to the Permanent Council and thanks him for his excellent report.
Mr Chairman, Serbia finds itself - once again - standing at an important crossroads. The EU welcomes the progress made by Serbia in the reform process. Parliamentary elections were held on 21 January. The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission assessed that they were conducted in accordance with OSCE commitments. The EU now urges Serbia’s political leaders to form a government as soon as possible - a government that is committed to reform and a European future for Serbia. The EU remains fully committed to Serbia's EU perspective and is ready to work with a new government towards this goal. Serbia remains welcome to join the European Union. The European Union is ready to resume negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with a new government in Belgrade provided it shows clear commitment and takes concrete and effective action for full co-operation with the ICTY. The EU welcomes the significant progress achieved in the negotiations with Serbia on visa facilitation and readmission and looks forward to concluding them soon. It also stands ready to consider other concrete measures that would help Serbia to integrate swiftly into the family of European nations.
UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari has now presented his final set of recommendations on the future status of Kosovo to the UN Secretary General. He will present them to the Security Council on 3 April. The proposals are the result of more than a year of intensive negotiations. The EU believes these proposals provide comprehensive arrangements designed to promote in Kosovo a multi-ethnic and democratic society based on the rule of law, including extensive measures to safeguard the future of all communities living in Kosovo, including the Kosovo Serbs. The EU believes the proposals create the basis for Kosovo's sustainable economic and political development and for strengthening the stability of the entire region.
The European Union commends the Mission’s strong performance in implementing its broad mandate and welcomes the good relations its has developed with the Serbian authorities. We particularly value the Mission’s work on minority rights and multi-ethnic activities in South Serbia, and we welcome its increasing focus on the Sandzak region. The EU also commends the Mission for the smooth management of its programmes during the dissolution of the state of Serbia and Montenegro and recognises that early elections, and the delay in forming a new government, have inevitably affected its ability to deliver in some areas.
The EU fully supports the Mission’s focus on promoting reconciliation and regional co-operation. The EU attaches particular importance to the Mission’s work in addressing war crimes issues, including through projects designed to promote awareness of the atrocities committed and support for the prosecution of the perpetrators. The EU welcomes improved regional judicial co-operation on war crimes proceedings through the “Palic Process”, but agrees with Ambassador Urstad that stronger political support and a better legal framework are still needed in Serbia.
The EU supports the Mission’s work to promote regional co-operation on refugee returns. The EU notes with concern that the goal of the Sarajevo Declaration to resolve all outstanding refugee returns and integration issues by the end of 2006 has not been met. The EU would also like to see the Mission continue its efforts to promote regional co-operation on border policing and in the fight against human trafficking, crime and terrorism.
The EU welcomes the Mission’s work to promote democratisation, tolerance and the rule of law in Serbia. In particular it supports its efforts to strengthen the capacity of the Serbian authorities - and the independence and impartiality of the police and judiciary - to combat organised crime and corruption.
Ambassador Urstad, you can be proud of your Mission’s work. And you can count on the EU’s strong support as you continue your efforts in 2007 to help Serbia move forwards.
The Candidate Countries Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, as well as EFTA country Iceland, a member of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.