On 25 July in Belgrade, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius met with the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Nebojša Stefanović, Prime Minister of Serbia Ivica Dačić, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivan Mrkić to discuss the Lithuanian EU Presidency priorities of EU enlargement, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, progress on EU reform implementation, and regional cooperation in the Western Balkans.
During the visit, Linkevičius also opened a joint Lithuanian-Serbian photography exhibition “Applied Nostalgia”, which Serbia traditionally holds in cooperation with the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The Foreign Minister emphasized that Lithuania was glad that the 28th member state joined the EU in the beginning of Lithuania’s Presidency of the EU Council and congratulated Serbia on the EU decision to launch accession negotiations. According to Linkevičius, Lithuania will seek to guarantee a smooth process of preparing for the start of negotiations with Serbia.
“This decision is significant not only to Serbia, but also to the entire Western Balkan region. Serbia has made progress in meeting the political criteria for EU membership, particularly in the normalisation of relations with Kosovo. In this regard, the EU has fulfilled its obligations. Lithuania hopes that this will encourage Serbia to continue to further improve relations with Kosovo and to prompt implementation of reforms in the priority areas of rule of law, fight against corruption, protection and integration of national minorities, and investment protection. Now the most important thing is to continue to make progress,” Linkevičius said.
During the meetings, the Foreign Minister noted that Kosovo’s local government elections in autumn 2013 were crucial for the implementation of the Belgrade-Pristina agreement on northern Kosovo. It is necessary to ensure the participation of the Serb community in the upcoming elections.
Linkevičius briefed the Serbian side that Serbia’s negotiation mandate was submitted on 23 July and would be discussed by the EU member states. Lithuania will seek to reach an agreement on the mandate already this year and to hold the first intergovernmental conference in 2013.
The head of the Lithuanian diplomacy also welcomed Serbia’s initiatives to improve relations with neighbouring countries and to strengthen regional cooperation. “These processes are of crucial importance to all Western Balkan countries aiming for progress on the path of integration in the EU,” Linkevičius said. The Foreign Minister also highlighted Lithuania’s attention to the region, as well as to the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries.
During the meeting, the Foreign Minister wished Serbia every success in chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2015.