Bakoyiannis Voices Support for Rapid Entry ofSerbia into EU

Greece on Monday reiterated its support for the "fastest possible" approach by Serbia towards entry into the European Union. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis made the statement after her meeting in Athens with her Serbian counterpart, Vuk Jeremic, who arrived for an official visit to the Greek capital.

"I reiterated that Greece supports Serbia's course towards European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. We believe that a European Serbia will offer its people prosperity, so they (people) can look to the future with optimism," Bakoyannis told reporters after the meeting.

She also noted that the thorny issue involving the Kosovo province's final status is at a crucial juncture.

"We continue to regard the possibility of unilateral actions with great apprehension," Bakoyannis said, adding: "We believe that diplomatic margins (for a mutually acceptable solution for Kosovo) have not been exhausted."

Jeremic repeated that Belgrade is ready and wants to continue dialogue, while he thanked Greece for its backing of his country's European prospect, along with specific actions to ease Schengen-mandated visa burdens for Serbian nationals and Athens' funding of development projects in the country. The Serbian Foreign Minister indicated that the next step is the signing of a Stability and Association agreement with the Union at an upcoming General Affairs Council.

Asked by reporters if UNSC Resolution 1244 covers the prospect of sending European forces to Kosovo, Jeremic said Belgrade welcomes the EU's greater involvement, "but we must be careful as far as the legal framework is concerned" -- clarifying that a new UNSC Resolution would be necessary if the international presence and engagement is modified vis-a-vis Resolution 1244.

Bakoyannis stated that Athens will encourage Serbia to apply for EU membership "as soon as possible, thus contributing to the country's accession into the European family, where it rightfully belongs." She added that Greece supports easier visa issuance procedures for Serbian citizens, noting that the Greek government has already broached the issue with relevant EU Commissioner and Vice-President Franco Frattini.

(Posting date 20 January 2008)

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