EU membership is Balkans-wide priority: Serbian PM

By Talha Ozturk

BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – The Balkans’ priority is EU membership, so it is in Serbia’s interest that all countries of the region make progress towards this and cooperate on regional stability, said Serbia’s prime minister on Thursday.

"It is in the interest of Serbia on the issue of regional stability that all countries are moving forward on the path to the EU,” Ana Brnabic told an EU-southeastern Europe summit in Serbia’s capital Belgrade.​

“Serbia is in the process of opening negotiations with Albania and Macedonia, which would be a big boost for the entire region, and Serbia and Montenegro could open and close more [EU accession] chapters, because the EU doesn’t want to make big differences between the countries in the region."

Brnabic said the theme of the summit — "A Sustainable Recovery in the Balkans? Serbia in a Leading Role" — is extremely important, because it is in line with Serbia’s goals: regional stability and EU membership.

Brnabic pointed to Serbia's unique role in the region, as unlike other countries it does not want to be part of NATO.

"Membership in the EU is the number one priority for the entire region,” she said.

“The entire region wants to become part of the EU, but the difference is that Serbia doesn’t want to be part of NATO, although it also wants to have good cooperation with NATO."

As she explained, Serbia's most important goal for EU membership is peace, as the EU is primarily a project for peace.

"This peace project must be extended to the Balkans, too," she said, adding that there are common EU values ​​that Serbia wants to have, such as the rule of law and efficient public administration.

Asked what would happen if Serbia were part of the EU tomorrow, Brnabic said that Serbia is not yet ready.

"EU membership, if the country isn’t ready, is a lose-lose situation," she warned.

"It is in Serbia's interest, however, to become a member [of the bloc] as soon as possible, but to implement the reforms as quickly as possible, and I hope it will be by 2025, but if it's not the case, it's not the end of the world.”

The EU-southeastern Europe summit, the seventh of its kind and the first to be held in Serbia, is set to conclude tomorrow.