(Source: Council of the EU and European Council)
Thank you, dear President Vučić, thank you my dear friend Aleksandar. Thank you for your warm welcome and thank you for your great hospitality. Let me congratulate you again on your re-election.
My first message today is to reaffirm our full commitment to Serbia’s accession negotiations to the European Union. In June, we will organise a meeting of the 27 EU leaders with the leaders of the Western Balkans. We want to enhance our dialogue and deepen our cooperation to promote peace, stability, and security.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has sent shockwaves across our continent. It has ended 20 years of peace that we have all, together with you, worked so hard for in Europe. It has come at a time when, after Covid, we should have been working together to repair our economies and protect each other.
The challenges we face today require new ways of thinking and new ways of working. We need to speed up EU integration, and we must create new incentives for reform. We want to deliver concrete benefits for all Serbian citizens and for all our partners in the region. That means already starting integration now – during the accession negotiations – rather than waiting until they are fully completed. We will have the occasion to discuss this topic in June in Brussels. And we have had occasion today to exchange views with you here in Belgrade.
My visit also sends a strong signal of our close EU-Serbia cooperation. I have just visited the Science and Technology Park. It is an excellent example of how the EU is contributing to the future of Serbia and to our joint priorities. When we invest in research, innovation, and Serbian start-ups, we are investing in the Serbian people. Your projects become our common projects, your future becomes our common future.
That is why the EU is the leading investor in the region. You mentioned numbers regarding that important topic. Our Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans mobilises up to 30 billion euros for investments across all sectors, such as transport, energy, or digital.
The war has had a dramatic impact on energy supplies across Europe. We are also supporting Serbia. The Serbia-Bulgaria gas interconnector for instance, started last January, will help diversify Serbia’s gas supply. And the EU has invited the Western Balkans to join our new common procurement platform for gas, hydrogen and LNG.
Thank you again for your warm welcome, dear Aleksandar. I look forward to continuing our close cooperation. We have had the occasion tonight to have an exchange of views on how we will take additional steps in the near future in order to make this cooperation effective and tangible for the benefit of the people of Serbia.