The head of the European People's Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, said in Belgrade on Monday that there was willingness for reforms and accession to the EU in Serbia but that the process of integration implied progress in necessary social and political reforms.
The fundamental ideas that we share are important and this is not only about doing the job for the sake of becoming an EU member, Weber said, warning about the common values such as the fight against corruption, the rule of law, freedom of the media, independence of institutions and building a modern society.
Weber was speaking at a joint news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, after he and the European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimir Bilcik, met with Vucic.
Stressing that he saw readiness for changes and membership in the EU on Vucic's part, Weber pointed to the importance of modernising the country and implementing the shared European values and ideas.
We have technical details about the talks but much more important is the readiness to change, Weber stressed.
The message from the EPP is that Serbia is a great friend and we will do our best to give it a credible European prospect, Weber said, adding that the visit of the European Parliament delegation was a new signal of support to Serbia and the entire region's EU membership prospects.
He did not give a specific answer when asked by a reporter when and how many negotiating chapters Serbia could open, stressing that he saw a clear readiness among colleagues in Belgrade and on the part of President Vucic to help Serbia become an EU member.
Vucic stressed Serbia's commitment to EU membership and the opening of new policy chapters in accession talks with the EU, asking for more clear messages about the European future of the Western Balkans.
"We want a clearer situation as to what Europe sees as the future enlargement process. If that is fine with them, we are grateful, if not, we are grateful again. We will act rationally and pragmatically and see what we can do for our country," Vucic said after meeting Weber and Balcik.
Vucic stressed the importance of Serbia continuing its European journey, noting that 67% of its trade was with the EU, but noted that despite commitment to its EU membership bid, it was not giving up on its interests and friendly relations with Russia and China, which it was frank about in talks with Western partners.
"I do not know if the (EU) will open one or two chapters, we have four that are technically ready for opening. Between zero and two (will be opened), realistically, one," Vucic said.
European officials will also meet with representatives of the Serbian Opposition during the visit to Serbia.
The high-level EP delegation, led by EPP whip Weber, is on a two-day visit to Serbia, and according to Weber, the intention is, after the election of the new European Commission, to show readiness for support to the region's European prospect already at the start of the new term.
Five years since the official start of talks with the EU, Serbia has opened only 17 of 35 policy chapters, it has provisionally closed two, and has four technically prepared to be opened.