03 May, 2007
Αddress by the Secretary General for European Affairs, Mr. Dimitrios K. Katsoudas
“Serbia on the Road to Europe; Problems and Perspectives”
Athens, May 3rd 2007
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to address this important Conference on the perspectives of the Serbian economy. The organisers thought it appropriate that the political framework of Serbia’s European prospects should be also presented.
I will address you, therefore, in my capacity as Secretary General for European Affairs, making only a few basic points on Greece’s economic relations with Serbia at the end.
Ladies and Gentleman,
The states of the Western Balkans, have been accepted by the E.U. as potential candidates for membership. This has been officially recognised with the “Agenda of Thessaloniki” in 2003.
This defines and secures the European perspective of the entire region.
Greece remains a full-hearted supporter of the European vocation for all the countries of the Western Balkans.
We believe that this is the best way to guarantee peace and stability in the entire region. The final place of all these countries should be firmly in the E.U., under the self-evident condition that they will meet the criteria and conditions foreseen for all candidates.
It is equally evident that the EU should, on its part, keep the promises given to the countries of the Western Balkans.
It is not only a question of European credibility, but also a basic motive for the countries with a European perspective for trying to achieve considerable progress in the process of their internal reforms.
Nevertheless, each country should be judged entirely on the basis of its own adjustment, and nothing else.
The further integration of the Western Balkans with the EU should be based on a strict and fair conditionality, as foreseen in the Copenhagen criteria, as well as on the demands and conditions of the accession process and the Stabilisation and Association Process.
The SAP constitutes the bulk of EU policy for the Western Balkans. In the framework of the SAP, Serbia enjoys a state of autonomous trade measures and receives economic assistance through the CARDS programme, now replaced by IPA (Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance). The annual action programmes for 2006 foresaw a total sum of 144 million Euros for Serbia.
Ladies and Gentlemen
All countries of the Western Balkans either have or negotiate agreements with the EU (Stabilisation and Association Agreements).
The negotiations for concluding such an Agreement between Serbia and the EU, which had started with the then Serbia and Montenegro Federation, have been interrupted, roughly a year ago, due to what was considered to be a wanting cooperation of Serbia with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at the Hague. This constitutes part of the conditionality for forging the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. It has, nevertheless, been clearly stated in the General Affairs European Council of February 2007 that the EU is ready ‘’to examine concrete measures that would help Serbia incorporate swiftly to the family of European Nations’’.
It is important to note at this point that the levels of administrative efficiency in Serbia are considerably higher than in other countries of the Western Balkans. This has been officially recognised by the European Council of December 2006.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Speaking on behalf of the Greek Government, I would like to clearly state Greece’s conviction that, without Serbia, the European perspective of the Balkans, as well as the overall stability of the entire region, cannot be fully achieved.
EU membership is the best way of furthering the stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans. This is why we work systematically with our EU partners for reopening the negotiations between Serbia and the European Union, for the final conclusion of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Greece is furthering the EU strategy for the Balkans with her own intensive efforts, as well as with her economic assistance, in the framework of our overall strategy of accelerating both the political and economic integration of this region with the EU.
Economic and trade relations between Greece and Serbia are constantly improving. The volume of trade between our two countries has increased impressively over the last years. However, there is still ample room for further improvement, not only in trade, but in overall economic
cooperation as well. Greek enterprises have massively invested in the
economy of Serbia in sectors such as banking, telecommunications, energy, food industry, infrastructure and services. Total greek investment in Serbia exceeds the sum of 2,1 billion Euros.
This positive momentum can gain further strength if the necessary modernisation and the improvement of the legal framework take place.
Our bilateral economic relations are furthermore enhanced by the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans. Under this development programme, 232,5 million euros, 50% of the total sum of the programme, are destined for Serbia. Both sides have agreed that special priority should be given to the Pan-European Corridor X, a motorway connecting Belgrade with Thessalonica and one of the two basic arteries of South East Europe.
The programme aims, in addition, to the transfer of know-how for the harmonisation of Balkan societies with the EU.
An example of great importance is the Southeastern European Light high speed fiber-optics network programme, linking universities and research institutes. The estimated cost of this programme is 20 million euros, 80% of which will be covered by Greece.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Greece and Serbia are two countries linked by ancient and inextricable bonds. Our relationship is lost in the depths of time. Serbian culture and religion were greatly influenced by our common roots in the great civilisation of Byzantium.
Serbian Art has been a magnificent manifestation of this nation’s artistic genius. Serbia has, likewise, greatly contributed to the cause of freedom in both world wars.
These are of course historical considerations, albeit of emotional importance. The future has a common home for both the old friends and foes.
All the countries of the Balkans are now either in the European Union or at some stage of a relationship leading to full membership.
By their firm inclusion into the framework of the European Union, the former powder-keg of Europe, very unjustly named thus in my view, will be finally turned into an area of peace, cooperation and prosperity, to the benefit not only of the Balkans and our continent, but of the world at large.