Brussels (Brussels Morning) European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, speaking in Serbia on Thursday, expressed support for the country’s EU aspirations.
An internal EU document cited in a Reuters report on Thursday suggests that members states are no longer agreed about enlargement of the EU in the Balkans.
Earlier, France announced its support for the opening of formal accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. The two Balkan countries are hoping to join their counterparts Montenegro and Serbia as EU candidate countries.
“I am a strong advocate for bringing Serbia into the European Union”, von der Leyen declared during a stop in Serbia, which she is visiting as part of her regional tour to reassure Balkan countries that the EC supports them on their path to EU membership.
She said the Commission would like to see Serbia open new negotiating chapters, but reminded her audience that the final say rests with EU member states.
Enlargement faces obstacles
Bulgaria is blocking North Macedonia’s path to EU membership over a language dispute, with Albania and North Macedonia stalled in the accession process.
Anne-Claire Legendre, a spokeswoman for France’s Miinistry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, noted that it was time to discuss the launch of Albania and North Macedonia’s accession talks.
In 2018, the EC suggested that Serbia might join the bloc by 2025, while noting at the time that this was an optimistic estimate.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić promised von der Leyen that the country would implement reforms and improve relations with Kosovo.
Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence and tensions between the two countries rose recently over recognition of vehicle registration plates.
Vučić, once an ultra-nationalist, adopted a pro-EU stance in 2008, when he announced plans to join the bloc, a move that required improving relations with Kosovo.On Thursday, Kosovo agreed to withdraw police from the border with Serbia to de-escalate rising tensions that had caused NATO to step up local patrols.