Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia], it is a real pleasure for me to welcome you here in Brussels to the European Union institutions for what is your first official visit outside of the region, and this tells everything about our common agenda.
We are really proud to have you here as the Prime Minister of Serbia visiting us and we take this as it is: a strong signal of recognition of the common work we have. First of all, on the future of Serbia. It is not the first time I say it: we both believe strongly Serbia will be inside the European Union and this is the direction towards which we are working consistently and stubbornly.
But it is also a sign of the approach that your government and your country is taking, not only towards the European Union, but also towards a certain way of working. The commitment you are showing to the region, to coordination and cooperation in the region, trying to overcome some of the ghosts of the past and trying to build the bright avenues for the future. Starting from economic cooperation, infrastructures and a cooperative manner of working together which is really a European way of living with neighbours – and improving the lives of the citizens.
The economic results that Serbia has had in the last years are remarkable, the role you are playing in the region is appreciated and I have to say meeting very often with you, with other colleagues in the Western Balkans, I see how the perspective is there not only for Serbia to join the European Union in the future, but also for the entire region.
And the determination that you personally and your government are putting in working towards the European Union integration is perfectly reflected in the determination and the political will that we have as European institutions to guarantee that this path brings us to a positive result.
We also discussed about the dialogue that I facilitate between Belgrade and Pristina that – as you know – has entered a new phase with President [of Serbia Aleksandar]Vučić and [President of Kosovo Hashim] Thaçi exchanging now two or three times in the recent months with, I think, a constructive perspective to which we are fully dedicated.
So, again, Ana, thank you very much for your visit which is also a symbol and we will make all we can to turn the symbol into a reality.
Q: About the new phase of the dialogue that you mentioned. Could you tell us about the possible next steps? What are the concrete steps that you expect in this? Also about the format: did you discuss the format? Does it mean that it will be on the level of Presidents, as it used to be the case, or maybe you as a Prime Minister will participate in that as well? Thank you.
FM: Thank you. I don’t like to answer ‘no’ to journalists, but in this case, I will not share ideas on next steps, because we are exactly in these days, in these weeks, in the process of discussing this with the two parties. I often say: the dialogue is not ours, the dialogue is of the parties. The role that we are playing is that of facilitating. But it is Belgrade and Pristina identifying the scope, the steps, the rhythm, the formats as well. We are there to facilitate agreements and understandings and not to dictate anything. We are now in the process of defining with Belgrade and Pristina what the next steps will be, so we will not share this publicly. One of the responsibilities of the facilitator is to keep some of the confidentiality of the work that is done.
But I can tell you that, yes, the Presidents have met informally or formally in Brussels or elsewhere with us. In Belgrade, there was a very useful idea to launch an internal, a national dialogue on the dialogue that I believe will help moving the responsibility and the focus of the dialogue to the national agenda and not only the government agenda which is going to be I think healthy and important to make sure that whatever decision or step is taken is felt by the entire population as something that they can own and sustain.
But I am very positive that this new phase can bring us to good results. I feel myself also a bit as a part of the region. Formality is not our strong point. But we normally get where we want to be. This is not to escape the question, but, yes, the Presidents have met several times. I see that the format is not something set in stone and can be adjusted depending on what is on the agenda, which are the steps that are needed. So we stay open to different options.
But at the moment, the Presidents are talking with our facilitation on the definition of this new phase with a full ownership of the entire national environment. Obviously we discussed with the Prime Minister this new phase and the government has a big responsibility in that. Also for this I am particularly happy and grateful to Ana, because I see also there a strong determination to bring this process forward.
Q: On the dialogue [for the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina]: you said a couple of weeks ago that you expect a qualitative leap forward towards the end of the year. Now we are talking about the future next months – 2 months in fact until the end of the year. Do you see that qualitative leap forward at sight and does this leap mean only a new phase or a new dynamic?
FM: I mentioned the fact that I would expect theses exchanges we had with the Presidents during the summer already to bring results on this new phase of the dialogue by the end of the year. This does not mean that I expect the qualitative leap to happen from now to December on the results of the dialogue – that would be more of a miracle than a dialogue. But I would expect that the new phase of the dialogue can be at full speed by the end of the year. We are actively working on content, not only on frameworks.
And, yes, I see a possibility for this qualitative leap to happen from now to let’s say the end of 2018. That is a long run and I might expect results even before. I think that both parties are determined, do have political conditions at home that were not there before. And I see a lot of determination in achieving results. Let’s keep always in mind that the scope and the purpose of the dialogue is the normalisation. And together with the full implementation of the agreements already signed, I believe that we have now a good opportunity to make this qualitative leap forward.