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news 15 May 13

Serbia’s EU Progress Linked to Bulgarian Minority Rights

A senior official from Sofia has warned Belgrade that further progress towards the EU could depend on the status and rights of the Bulgarian minority in Serbia.

Novinite.com, BIRN

Marin Raykov, Bulgaria’s caretaker prime minister and foreign minister, said that ensuring the rights and welfare of the ethnic Bulgarian minority in Serbia was a condition for Belgrade’s progress towards EU membership.

“The condition of the rights and freedoms of Bulgarians in the Tsaribrod [Dimitrovgrad] and Bosilegrad areas is part of the overall assessment of our western neighbour's progress towards European integration,” Raykov said on Tuesday.

He was speaking during a visit to the town of Dimitrovgrad in eastern Serbia, the region in which the Bulgarian community in Serbia is concentrated.

A total of 18,543 ethnic Bulgarians live in Serbia according to the latest census.

Raykov noted that his country was firmly committed to Serbia's future EU membership and that is why Sofia will continue to monitor the situation with the Bulgarian minority in the country.

"The perspective is that with integration, the border between Serbia and Bulgaria will become a symbolic administrative line that draws together, rather than divides, people on its two sides," Raykov said.

The Bulgarian prime minister underscored the need for better economic and infrastructure development in eastern Serbia to stimulate trade and tourism, and said that young people should maintain Bulgarian cultural traditions within the country.

Serbia obtained EU candidate status in March 2012 and is hoping to get a start date for accession talks in June.

On April 21, the European Commission recommended that “negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened with Serbia”.

The European Commission recommendation is to be submitted to the European Council, which could then grant Serbia the start date for talks.

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