‘Friends of Serbia’ gathered in Brussels

‘Friends of Serbia’ gathered in Brussels

Belgrade, May 18, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Milos Mitrovic

The representatives of 13 European Union’s countries gathered at the conference “Friends of Serbia” in Brussels today. According to Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, all of them have supported Serbian efforts to promote stability in the Western Balkan region. Vucic added that Serbia is now “very respected” within the Union and that participants at the conference have supported reforms in the country.

Vucic told Radio-Television of Serbia’s correspondent that he expects the first chapters in Serbia-EU accession negotiations to be opened by the end of the year. The Premier specified this would happen in September, “but he did not lose the hope it could happen earlier”, RTS reports.

Serbia officially started talks last January, but there was no progress considering the opening of the chapters so far.

“We have had open and constructive discussion on the continuation of the dialogue with Pristina and not only Germany and France had very positive remarks, but all the countries in the region – Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia. For the first time we have received clear support from the Baltic countries, Latvia in particular”, Vucic said.

The Serbian PM underlined that German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier has acknowledged “all that Germany is satisfied with”. Tomorrow, Vucic will be in Berlin where he will have, as he said, a number of important meetings.

Considering the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Vucic admitted that it is the main issue “for the representatives of many countries”, emphasizing that Serbia will keep focusing on it, while protecting its state and national interests at the same time.

The host of the meeting, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, congratulated Serbia for the “positive and important reforms” adding, however, the fact that none of the chapters in the accession talks – a year and the half after Belgrade started the process – have been opened yet. “We want to support Serbia in its European path, and today we have witnessed that we have the assistance of our colleagues from the EU”.

Another host in Brussels, Italian FM Paolo Gentiloni, stressed that “the constructive role of Serbia in preserving stability in the Western Balkans is appreciated by all”. He assessed that Belgrade’s approach in this domain is “non-dogmatic and pragmatic”.

Belgrade’s relations with Moscow on the agenda

When asked whether the recent visit to Belgrade by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been on the agenda of the Brussels gathering, Aleksandar Vucic replied positively. “The harmonizing of our foreign policy with that of European Union has been discussed”, he confirmed.

In the Premiers words, Serbia “is very well aware of its obligations towards the EU”. Nonetheless, Vucic added that Belgrade wants to keep good relations with Moscow. “Everybody here (in Brussels) know that, and we have nothing to hide”.

Concerns over FYROM

Vucic reiterated that he “will not interfere in Macedonia’s internal affairs”, but emphasized that the region certainly doen’t need unrest and instability. “I feel and I see that something is wrong in the Western Balkans”, he told journalists admitting that he has concerns for the region’s stability “for the first time”.

“We don’t need unrest nor some kind of spark that could cause fire, in Bosnia for instance, or at any other place”, the Serbian PM concluded.

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz also expressed concern. “We see that the lack of European perspective is not good for Macedonia and for the region”, Kurz said.