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Serbia seeking greater global role, says president

Gaining EU candidate status was crucial step for Serbia, which hopes to become an active international player, Serb President Boris Tadic said Tuesday as he received a top European prize.

Tadic was handed the Council of Europe’s North-South Prize at a ceremony in Lisbon alongside joint-winner Souhayr Belhassen of Tunisia, a women’s rights activist.

“Serbia aims to be an active member of the international community and to develop the best possible relations with the countries of the Balkans,” Tadic said at the ceremony in the Portuguese parliament.

He won the North-South prize, awarded by the council to those who promote “solidarity and global interdependence,” for his reconciliation efforts in the Balkans and his leadership in Serbia’s EU-membership drive.

“We and the Balkans have a difficult task ahead to resolve security problems,” he said.

Belgrade earned European Union candidate status in March, two years after its formal request to join the bloc.

“Becoming an official EU candidate is a very important moment for Serbia,” Tadic said alongside Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, who presented the prize.

“We will continue our efforts so that Serbia is able to receive by the end of the year a date for the opening of negotiations for full membership in the EU.”

Belhassen, in receiving her award, said it is not possible “to have democracy without equality.”

Previous winners of the North-South prize include Queen Rania of Jordan, ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbahev and former Brazilian president Lula da Silva.