US Ambassador to Serbia: I hope Serbia will be part of EU enlargement plans
The EU is ready for a new phase of enlargement, and I hope Serbia’s accession will be part of that, US Ambassador in Serbia, Christopher Hill, told Euractiv Serbia, meanwhile the popularity of the EU among Serbians remains lowest in the region and Belgrade still refuses to align with the bloc’s foreign policy.
Serbia is a candidate country and is current negotiation its accession although progress remains slow. Furthermore, just 33% of Serbians want to join the EU- the lowest in the region with neighbouring Kosovo and Albania above 90%.
Furthermore, the country has come under fire from Brussels over its refusal to align with foreign policy such as sanctions against Russia due to the war in Ukraine, and a perceived growing closeness to Moscow.
“I am encouraged by the fact that the European Union is ready for a new phase of enlargement, and I hope that Serbia will be a part of it,” Hill said.
“Everything that Serbia needs to do to join the EU is what Serbia must do regardless, of whether entering the bloc or not. We believe it is the right thing for Serbia, and, if they want it, we will assist,” Hill added.
Hill spoke at the EU-Western Balkans Summit, where the focus was on the need for EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, particularly in the context of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.
The panel’s focus was on encouraging reforms and rebuilding trust in the EU enlargement process, with a specific emphasis on key issues such as accession strategies, efficiency in countering the influence of Russia and China, the reality of enlargement ambitions by 2030, and the role of the United States and transatlantic relations in this process.
Debates were attended by Hill, Jean-Claude Cousseran, Director-General for Enlargement at the EU Commission, and ministers from several countries in the region. They agreed that enlargement has the potential to address issues in grey areas and provide long-term stability near the EU.
Lajčak: EU membership is a unique opportunity
Miroslav Lajčak, the EU Special Representative for the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, emphasised on Thursday in Brussels that there has been significant progress in implementing agreements reached during the dialogue between the two sides.
During the enlargement debate, Lajčak said the normalisation of relations is crucial for the European future of the Western Balkans.
“The normalisation of relations is a matter of strategic importance. Without this step, the European future becomes unattainable. Recent progress includes the energy sector, vehicle registration, addressing the issue of missing persons, and local elections in the north,” Lajčak said, adding that efforts are being made to implement agreements towards normalisation.
Lajčak warned that time is not an ally and called for the swift implementation of dialogue commitments, emphasising a dense political calendar in the coming year. The EU has stressed that Western Balkan countries need to rapidly normalise their relations to leverage the six-billion-euro economic growth plan approved by the EU Commission.
(Jelena Jevtić, Jelena Nikolić | EURACTIV.rs)