BELGRADE, Serbia, January 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
The Serbian government welcomed today's formal opening of negotiations on the accession of Serbia to the European Union as "a historic step for Serbia".
This is the clearest possible acknowledgement of all the changes that have taken place in Serbia and in particular of the programme of political and economic reforms that the coalition government has introduced since coming to power. It is further proof of the trust and cooperation that has been established between Belgrade and the European Union.
A great deal of detailed work lies ahead over the coming months, but much has already been done to bring Serbian legislation into line with EU requirements. The government will be implementing further reforms to ensure that the negotiations move forward as smoothly as possible.
Prime Minister Ivica Dačić said: "The opening of negotiations is a historic step for Serbia and a major achievement for the coalition government. We see this as a resounding endorsement of the steps we are taking to transform Serbia and look forward to negotiations moving forward as quickly as possible so that the Serbian people can enjoy all the benefits of EU membership."
First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić said: "We are proud that this historic moment has been achieved under the leadership of the coalition government but this is just the start of Serbia's journey to a brighter future as a modern democracy with a dynamic economy at the heart of Europe."
Negotiations between Serbia and the EU on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, a precursor to EU membership, began in October 2005. The Agreement was signed in April 2008 and entered into force on 1 September 2013. Visa-free travel between Serbia and the EU was introduced at the end of 2009.
In December 2009 Serbia made a formal application for membership of the EU. Following detailed studies in which Serbia was asked to respond to some 2,500 questions, the EU Commission recommended that Serbia be granted official EU candidate status. This was endorsed by the European Council in March 2012.
Following the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina on 19 April 2013, the European Council decided on 28 June 2013 to open formal EU accession negotiations with Serbia by the end of January 2014. On 17 December 2013 it was announced that negotiations would be formally opened in Brussels on 21 January 2014.
SOURCE The Serbian Government