Von der Leyen says Serbia must normalise relations with Kosovo to join EU

The European Union is counting on Serbia joining its ranks in the future but Belgrade and Pristina need to normalise relations, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after meeting President Aleksandar Vučić during her official visit to Serbia.

“Enlargement is at the top of the EU agenda. This is a time of global turbulence; we must strengthen the unity and security of the continent. We want Serbia to join the EU. Serbia is already one of the most advanced countries on the EU path,” she said.

Von der Leyen then stressed the need to normalise relations with Pristina.

“The crucial thing is for these parties to engage and move towards normalising relations. Pristina must draft the ZSO (Association of Serb Municipalities) statute, and Serbia must implement existing agreements and not waste time,” she said.

When asked about the statement on “de facto” recognition, which she made in Pristina, she said it is about implementing the Ohrid Agreement.

“It includes the recognition of certain documents by Serbia. This is a necessary precondition for the European path. The accession process is based on merits; some countries progress quickly, some more slowly, and we believe it is fair for such a process to be merit-based,” she added.

Meanwhile, after the latest meeting in Brussels, Vucic told audiences in Serbia that he would never recognise Kosovo directly or indirectly, a contradiction to the ongoing dialogue process.

In terms of support Serbia could provide, von der Leyen said that when the support plan is completed, the GDP of the Western Balkans could increase by 10%.

“If we open the European Union’s single market and have a common regional market for the Western Balkans, we need equal rules, and reforms are necessary for that,” she noted, adding that if reforms are implemented, the EU will come with investments.

“For Serbia, for example, this would mean improving the business environment, working on the energy sector where we are already working, focusing on education, and training people for future jobs. These are just some of the areas where we could invest and reform together,” she added.

After their discussion, Vucic said their topics of conversation were significant as they covered investments and political issues.

“We talked about the situation in the region. I repeat everything said in Brussels: Serbia is committed to preserving peace and stability and knows its obligations,” Vučić said.

According to him, Serbia will fulfil its obligations under the agreed-upon terms and it is clear what it cannot do contrary to the constitution.

“We know what Serbia has accepted. In line with that, we will act responsibly in fulfilling our obligations,” Vučić added.

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