Füle’s comment came yesterday (30 August) in response to a question about whether the European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia, Jelko Kacin (ALDE, Slovenia), had rightly stated that Belgrade could not obtain a date for the talks before mid next year.
The commissioner spoke following a meeting in Brussels with Suzana Grubješić, the Serbian minister in charge of EU integration.
Kacin said in the Serbian city of Novi Sad on 27 August that Serbia would not get a date for starting the accession talks with the EU by the end of the year, stressing that before the launch of the talks, Serbia must demonstrate results in fighting organised crime and corruption, and in rule of law.
Grubješić pledged that Serbia would do everything in its power to have the talks scheduled as soon as possible, and stressed that Füle has said that the European Commission was committed to assisting Serbia by dispensing "advice and support through close cooperation."
Kosovo remains an issue
The key condition for obtaining a date for talks with the EU, he stressed, is the tangible and steady improvement of relations with Kosovo and implementation of the agreements reached with Pristina in "letter and spirit," which will "enable us to move forward." The 28 February Council Conclusions also provide that Serbia should respect the right of minorities on its territory.
Füle added that he and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton would be meeting Prime Minister Ivica Dačić in Brussels next week to discuss modalities for resuming the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.
Füle also warned Serbia that it cannot expect to progress towards EU membership unless it revokes a newly-passed law curtailing the independence of its central bank.
"One of those issues that we discussed today was certain elements of the amendment to the law of the central bank, which limits the independence of the central bank and thus goes against the alignment with EU acquis," the commissioner said.
Last week, the International Monetary Fund said it would not negotiate a new loan deal over concerns the government is eating into the independence of the National Bank.
Füle also said that his meeting with Grubješić had touched on Serbia's financial and economic problems, stressing that the EC was ready to allocate some funds from the EU's aid program for countries in the process of gaining membership in the EU, and direct budget support to the Belgrade government to help it overcome its financing problems.