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Serbia: EU External Relations

Volume 471: debated on Tuesday 29 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans to support the signature of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia at the forthcoming General Affairs and External Relations Council on 28 to 29 January; whether his support for the signature of this agreement is contingent on Serbia meeting its obligations to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; and if he will make a statement. (182702)

[holding answer 28 January 2008]: The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) conclusions of June 2007 recalled that the pace and conclusion of the negotiations on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) would depend on Serbia's full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

This Government and the EU are committed to signing a SAA as soon as the necessary steps have been finalised. We remain convinced of the benefits that the SAA will bring to both sides and of the positive effects this will have for the region. With a view to achieving this, the EU has agreed to set up a task force to examine ways of delivering rapid progress. The work of the task force started on 28 January 2008, with a view to formulating recommendations to Serbia and the Council of the EU as quickly as possible.

The GAERC of 28 January 2008 agreed to invite Serbia to sign an interim Political Agreement on co-operation between the EU and Serbia, providing a framework for making progress on political dialogue, free trade, visa liberalisation, and education co-operation, to be signed on 7 February.

Serbia has a crucial role to play in the Western Balkans, both for ensuring stability and as a motor for the economic development and prosperity of the region. The EU expressed its commitment to deepen its relationship with Serbia, which draws on a rich and diverse range of cultural, historic, economic and people to people ties.