German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his opinion on Wednesday support for Serbia and Kosovo in their aspirations to join the European Union, as leaders of both Balkan countries pledged to advance the reforms needed to achieve this.
Scholz first met with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, and then with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic.
Alongside Kurti, the German leader declared: “The Western Balkans belong to Europe.”
Later, alongside Vucic, Scholz said: “For Serbia it is important that it continues its path of reforms and this includes media freedom and the fight against organized crime.”
Scholz stressed that beyond the reforms each country had to undertake, progress on the issue of rapprochement between the two was paramount, calling it “extremely important” for their membership aspirations.
“All open questions must be clarified in this dialogue,” Scholz said, referring to problems between neighbors.
Berlin attempts to unify a divided region in the face of Russian influence
Largely of Albanian origin, Kosovo separated from Serbia in 1999 before declaring independence in 2008. Although most EU member states recognize Kosovo’s independence, Serbia does not. and still claims it as its own territory.
After highlighting his country’s progress in rule of law reforms and the fight against corruption, Kosovo’s Kurti said Brussels, for its part, must make it easier for Kosovars to obtain European visas.
He also referred to Russia’s influence in the Balkans, calling it a threat to peace and security. He said that in the face of Moscow’s actions, Kosovo saw no other alternative than joining the EU and NATO to secure its future.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and its alleged exploitation of unresolved conflicts in the Balkans to fuel anti-European sentiment have partly motivated Berlin’s efforts to integrate the region’s countries into the EU.
The invasion, for example, put Serbia in a difficult position. Although he condemned the Russian invasion, his historical religious, ethnic and political ties to Moscow prevented him from signing sanctions.
Serbian Vucic believes a compromise with Kosovo is possible
However, Vucic made it clear where he saw Serbia’s future when speaking in Berlin: “It is Serbia’s choice to embark on the European path and Serbia is fully committed to it. the most popular, Serbian leaders will support this path. »
Vucic also spoke about his desire to reach a compromise with Kosovo to facilitate this goal, saying he would do everything in his power to achieve it.
Scholz announced Wednesday that he would travel to the Balkans later this year for talks with the leaders of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia, as well as Serbia and Kosovo.
He said he would also invite Western Balkan leaders to participate in negotiations on regional cooperation.
“In the future,” Scholz said, “all its countries must belong to the European Union.”
js/sms (dpa, Reuters)