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Hahn: EU committed to enlargement, Serbia is on the top of the list

BELGRADE - EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said during his stay in Belgrade that there was an indisputable commitment to EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and that Serbia is on the top of the list. 

Johannes Hahn in Belgrade

“There is a clear support and commitment to Serbia becoming a part of the European family,” said Hahn at a press conference held together with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić.

He recalled that at the Summit in Paris in early July, all the leaders expressed their commitment to EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and that Serbia is, as he said, “on the top of that list.”

Hahn mentioned that the EU would continue to “work hard” to make the progress of Serbia on its European path more visible. Hahn also noted that harmonization with European standards was in the interests of the citizens of Serbia and was not foreseen to please European officials. Serbia’s European path is a process that requires time, Han noted and pointed out that it is necessary to work on it – not only members of the government should do so, but also the whole society.”We are determined to move toward a goal, and that is the accession of Serbia to the EU,” said Han.

According to him, the future of the entire region lies in the EU and therefore a region where peace will reign is required.

“The interests of Serbia are linked to the interests of the region and you need a region in which peace and determination towards the European perspective will reign, which is basically expressed by all leaders in the region -all countries should have a European perspective and neither of them should hamper the perspectives of other countries” said Hahn.

“This should be understood as a contribution to the interest of each individual country and to the entire region as well. We need patience and commitment in order to develop a region and Serbia’s EU accession is an example of it. It is my personal goal and I’ll do anything to contribute to it. ”

He said that it was in the interest of the EU to create a prosperous Balkans and noted that not everything could change from day to day, there was a history and a challenge for politicians to go forward, to have a vision, but not to lose sight of the citizens. “This is a leadership, this is a difference between politicians and statesmen – your premier is a statesman, fortunately,” Hahn said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Serbia.

Rule of law reform is essential

Johannes Hahn said that Serbia was out of recession, but that the full economic success required the continuation of reforms and, above all, the work to strengthen the rule of law.

“Rule of law reform is essential in order to create a predictable business environment,” said Hahn on a panel on business environment improvement, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS).

While listing the prerequisites for the economic success, he underlined the completion of the privatization and restructuring of large companies as well as the public administration reform.

“These reforms will in the long run bring much cost savings,” said Hahn, adding that the country needs a reform of the tax administration to ensure better collection of taxes and strengthen the fight against the gray economy. “The fight against the gray economy will improve the state of public finances, help companies that regularly pay taxes and improve the protection of workers ,” as he noted .

According to him, the Serbian government should be more active in the area of public investments, especially now, when public finances were in a better condition.

Finally, he said that unemployment in Serbia had long been a problem and the special needs of providing more opportunities to young people should be taken into account. The European Union plays a key role in supporting the Serbian economy and is by far the most important trade partner of Serbia and its investor. Last year, the EU invested EUR 1.5 billion in Serbia. “European investors are creating jobs”, said the European Commissioner.