Serbia cannot be neutral and join EU - German official

Serbia needs to declare itself in accordance with the foreign policy positions of the EU; a country that wants to join cannot have a neutral position.

Source: Vecernje novosti
(Tanjug/AP, file)
(Tanjug/AP, file)

Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office Michael Roth told this to Belgrade-based newspaper Vecernje Novosti.

"The EU and its member states come first for Serbia when it comes to trade, investment and political cooperation. In addition, Serbia maintains relations with other countries, and no one expects them to be severed. Germany is also trying to have a solid relationship and cooperation with Russia and China. However, you want to join the EU - which means that you need to declare yourselves in accordance with the foreign policy positions of the Union. There cannot be some 'neutral position' of a state that wants membership," said Roth.

Asked whether there were any new conditions for Serbia to open chapters 23 and 24 in its accession negotiations, he answered negatively.

"EU member states are currently harmonizing a common negotiating position. Germany is committed to the two chapters being opened as soon as possible. In particular, we expect that the independence of the judiciary and respect for media freedoms is ensured, along with a determined fight against corruption. There's still a lot to be done," added Roth.

He pointed out that it was necessary to make up for the falling behind in the process of normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.

"Visible progress is needed - on both sides. The negotiating framework defines the parallelism of the accession negotiations and the dialogue of normalization. The speed of Serbia moving closer to the EU is determined by the speed of implementation of those commitments stemming from the agreement on normalization of relations. The opening of further chapters, in addition to 23 and 24, will therefore be considered in the light of the progress made in this field. And all that has been agreed on long ago, and is not a new condition," said the German official.

According to the daily, he also said there was "no mention" of international recognition of the self-proclaimed state of Kosovo and its membership in the UN.

"Before Serbia's EU accession it is necessary to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo in the form of a legally binding agreement. All countries of the Western Balkans, Kosovo too, have concrete accession perspective, but we do not want to import bilateral conflict into the EU," said Roth.

Asked about "the claims that the EU, including including Germany, and the United States, want to destabilize Serbia and bring down (PM Aleksandar) Vucic," he called them "absurd," and added:

"I am convinced that people in Serbia will not believe this. Germany, the EU and the U.S. want a stable, democratic and prosperous Serbia. We support Serbia on its path to the EU, this year alone with about 170 million euros, which makes us the largest bilateral donor. You have been approved around 1.5 billion euros for the period from 2014 until 2020 from the pre-accession funds alone."

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