Germany reassures Kosovo it is not treated unfairly

Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj (R) and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany Sigmar Gabriel hold a joint press conference in Pristina, Kosovo, 14 February 2018. [Petrit Prenaj/EPA/EFE]

Serbia will need to accept the independence of Kosovo, its former province, in order to join the European Union, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel reiterated in Pristina late yesterday (14 February).

Kosovo declared independence 10 years ago, almost a decade after NATO bombed Serb forces to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians from the region during a 1998-99 counter-insurgency war.

“If Serbia wants to move toward the European Union, the building of the rule of law is a primary condition, but naturally also the acceptance of Kosovo’s independence,” Gabriel said during a joint press conference with Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

“That is a central condition to take the path toward Europe.”

Gabriel said he had given the same message to Serbian officials in Belgrade earlier on Wednesday.

Serbia aims to join the EU by 2025, a date set by Brussels as it looks to bring Western Balkan nations into its fold.

Serbian officials are hoping recognition of Kosovo will not be a key condition for EU membership, and the defence minister, Aleksandar Vulin, said Belgrade and Pristina should partition Kosovo.

Gabriel said his country would help to get Kosovo recognised by the five EU member states that have yet to do so – Spain, Romania, Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia.

“Naturally, enabling membership of the European Union is the end goal. One of the conditions for that will be to persuade the five European Union countries which don’t recognize Kosovo that such a recognition makes sense because Kosovo will never again be a part of Serbia.”

“Membership of the European Union is a win-win situation for all,” he said.

EU insists on Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, normalisation

Brussels expects to see a legally binding document regulating relations between Belgrade and Pristina before Serbia joins the EU and insists on Belgrade’s continued dialogue with Kosovo, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said in the Serbian capital this week.

Kosovo has been recognized by 115 countries, including 23 of the 28 EU members. Its UN membership has been blocked by Serbia’s allies Russia and China. Around 120,000 Serbs who live in Kosovo still consider Belgrade their capital, and they are financially supported by Serbia.

Germany, one of the first countries to recognise Kosovo’s independence along with the United States, France and the United Kingdom, remains one of the biggest investors in Kosovo.

Hashim Thaçi, the president of Kosovo, has been warning against unequal treatment by the EU of Kosovo and of the three Western Balkans countries with Muslim majority.

EU enlargement: Tear down mental walls in the Balkans

Last week the European Commission dealt another blow to the Western Balkans by promising an accession strategy for Montenegro and Serbia while neglecting the other four Balkan countries, Hashim Thaçi, the president of Kosovo, writes in an exclusive op-ed for EURACTIV.

The Commission’s new enlargement strategy, unveiled on 6 February, has sparked controversy in the region. It singled out Serbia and Montenegro, which could join the bloc in 2025, as “frontrunners”.

Hahn: Western Balkans can join EU, but there will be no discount

All six countries in the Western Balkans have a European perspective, and Serbia as one of the leaders in the process could help the entire region’s progress towards membership, Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in Belgrade on Wednesday (7 February).

An informal meeting of the EU foreign ministers (Gymnich) partly dedicated to the Western Balkans starts today in Sofia.

Tomorrow the ministers of the six Western Balkan countries will join the EU ministerial. Some of them are expected to voice frustrations over the Commission’s new enlargement strategy.

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