Dragi premijer [Aleksandar Vučić],
I learnt some Serbian words, I am going to make use of them. Thank you very much for the wonderful hospitality. Hospitality in Serbian is always wonderful as well as it is in all the Balkans. And as I said several times – being Italian I feel part of the region, so this does not surprise me.
I decided to maintain not only my visit here in Belgrade but also my address at the Parliament because I believe I have an important message to bring to the Serbian people and to the region in these difficult times. As you said, Aleksandar, we are living in times of uncertainty and potential tensions that could destabilise the region, beyond the region, and put at risk the achievements that we managed to build also thanks to hard work, but also common work we have on some important issues both internally in Serbia, in the region and more globally.
The message I am bringing, and I hope it could be heard, not withstanding the noise in the parliament, is that we recognise that Serbia has chosen the European Union integration path consistently. We believe and we see that this goes beyond some of the party lines and that this is exactly in the interest of the Serbian people for the same numbers you mentioned on our economic ties, but also what concerns our common work to improve the judiciary, the rule of law, the media system in the country, an environment that can attract investments, but also that can guarantee a better life, not only a better future but also a better present, for all Serbs.
We are committed to that and this is the message that I tried to bring here today and let me reassure you that this goes beyond the issue of welcoming and hosting. Hospitality here is always wonderful – being an Italian politician and not only an European Union official, having been in a complicated national parliament myself – I know this is never a matter of hospitality, it is a matter of politics. We are not naïve and I believe that some of my interlocutors in the hemicycle today were not maybe ready to face the fact that I can manage political confrontations in a complicated environment. It is politics; it is not being nice to a lady. It is about difficult political environment here, in the region and it is also about different ways of interpreting the path that Serbia has taken. That is legitimate, that is part of the democratic discussion in this country that we respect.
It is not up to us, it is not up to the European Union and it is not our intention to enter any domestic political debate, but this, yes, to be frank and open on one thing that I would like to repeat here: the European Union is committed to not only have the door open to Serbia as a country that will be part of the European Union, but looking forward to welcoming you in the family. And I believe that in the last two years we have done an enormous work in this direction with some results that are already arriving and some others that will come, in all sectors, from economy to rule of law and justice and so many others.
So from our side commitment is full. From my personal side, commitment has always been at the limit and beyond the limit of personal dedication, and this will continue. I am sure that this will bring benefits not only to all the Serbian people, also to all the European Union citizens. This is not for pleasing anyone, it is also for self-interest, because it is in the interest of the European Union to have, as I said, in Parliament a reflection on the future of the Union that is not a reflection of the Union at 27 but for one Member State that will finally and probably leave, other Member States will join us.
And this is being serious from our side because we know that you are being serious on yours, beyond all the political tensions, all the political discussions that are proper to a democracy and we know there is also some work to do here to strengthen rule of law and judiciary aspects. And we are committed also to that. We can assist. We can help. We can accompany.
There is an additional reason why it is so important for the European Union to work together in a respectful, fair and constructive manner as we do always, even when we tackle the most difficult subjects, and this is the regional stability. Regional stability of the Balkans is a strategic interest of the European Union not because of geopolitical games. This does not belong to our understanding, our way of doing politics, but because we know that stability, peace, if I can use this word because I have the impression that this is becoming relevant also in our times, peace in the Balkans is peace in Europe. And we have faced in the recent times, and we might face in the times to come some attempts to put this into question.
The European Union is determined to work with all actors in the region, starting from Serbia and with all the others in the Western Balkans, to guarantee that first peace in the region becomes an universal achievement for all of us; second, that regional cooperation is built in a solid basis. The European Union was built on economic cooperation and it led us to 60 years of peace unprecedented European history. We believe that this is a model that can be useful for the Balkans as well: trading with each other, relating to each other, from an economic but also from a connections point of view is much more convenient to our people than finding each other or escalating our rethorics.
Divisions are always there and they can be used or misused politically or ideologically. I am not sure this is convenient to what we call ordinary citizens that at the end of the day have to get a salary, have kids at school and have to get good economic and social conditions for their lives. I know that the Serbian government is committed to improving the living conditions of its people and I believe that in the region there is the same degree of awareness of the value of regional cooperation, working also in reconciliation, even when it is difficult, and this is the consistent message I am bringing everywhere where I am visiting in the region.
And you know that my – I think – fourth visit to Belgrade in the last two, three years is this time part of a broader regional visit where my message is the same. EU integration path is strategic for us. We are serious about that. We are consistent about that. We need strong, stable, open, democratic partners in the region to work with them on that; second, integration and regional cooperation, good neighbouring relations are the key for also economic development of the region which is, we know, the number one priority for the people here.
So, dragi premijer, I thank you once again for the wonderful hospitality. Don’t worry too much for something that actually has brought me back to taste the flavour of an interesting parliamentary experience that I miss sometimes since I left the Italian Parliament – sometimes the European Parliament can also be interesting. So it has been a pleasure for me to be here, to exchange with you and with the colleagues on the way forward on our cooperation both bilaterally and regionally. I am looking forward to come back to Belgrade and the rest of the region to welcome you again together with other colleagues in Brussels for another important part of our work when it comes to regional stability and dialogue. I thank you very much and, again, I am convinced that the way ahead can give us further elements of improvement. Thank you, Aleksandar.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I134554