Serbia will only join the EU when it is deemed ready and the bloc has been reformed and can accept new members, the presidents of Serbia and France agreed during Emmanuel Macron’s visit. But Serbia’s Aleksandar Vučić tacitly admitted that Belgrade could not join the EU in 2025. EURACTIV Serbia reports.
Macron only visited Serbia on his two-day foray into the Western Balkans. The subjects dealt with were the European integration of Serbia and the Kosovo problem as well as the improvement of relations and the economy.
After meeting with Vučić, Macron reiterated that the EU could not expand until it was reformed internally, while Serbia had its own homework to do and reforms necessary to advance its EU offer.
“With 28 members, the EU is already not functioning and cannot expand, cannot make progress without reforming itself,” Macron said at a press conference.
The letter – Macron pulls the Balkan carpet
Playing with the Balkans quickly and easily is not a good idea. The EU has already found this out the hard way more than once. Now the region needs clarity and oversight in order to progress gradually towards mainstream Europe. Apparently, Emmanuel Macron missed this memo.
Vučić said that an accession date for Serbia in 2025 mentioned in the European Commission’s strategy for the Western Balkans was just another in a series of dates that had been announced and failed to materialize.
He also said that reforms in Serbia and the EU are parallel processes and stressed that Serbia was working on issues that the Commission had highlighted as problematic, particularly those related to the rule of law.
“We are trying to objectively analyze the EC report (progress report) and make changes in various areas,” said the Serbian President.
Another important topic that the two presidents discussed was Kosovo, Serbia’s former province that declared independence in 2008. In addition to reforms and adaptation to EU legislation, one of the most important prerequisites for Serbia’s EU offer is to reach a comprehensive agreement with Kosovo.
Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by a significant part of the international community, including many EU Member States, but not by Serbia or Russia.
In order to renew the EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel organized a Western Balkans summit in Berlin in June and planned the next meeting in Paris in early July.
However, the Paris meeting was canceled due to limited progress as Pristina maintained its import tariffs on Serbian goods while Vučić refused to resume dialogue until the tariffs are lifted.
Vučić admitted that Serbia and France did not see this on an equal footing – “for France Kosovo is independent, for Serbia not” – but said he had asked the French President to help solve the Kosovo problem.
Macron said a compromise had to be reached and France would support the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue in order to find a concrete solution in the next few months.
He added that he would organize a special meeting with the leaders of Kosovo, Serbia and the German Chancellor.
The French president also said that relations between France and Serbia should get a new boost with several new agreements.
During the visit, France and Serbia signed 22 economic, cultural, scientific and defense pacts – including an agreement on the procurement of French Mistral air defense missiles – and a letter of intent to build the Belgrade subway.
Macron also announced that in a few months a French regional development agency would be set up in Belgrade, which would contribute to Serbia’s economic development.
During the visit it was also announced that the Euronews channel and the HD-WIN media group, which are part of Telekom Srbija, are jointly launching the news channel Euronews Serbia and the digital platform.
Emotional part of the visit
After the official talks, Macron also spoke to several thousand citizens who had gathered in Belgrade’s largest park, Kalemegdan, in front of a renewed monument of gratitude for France. Unveiled in 1930, the monument is dedicated to the friendship between Serbia and France, which was formed during the First World War.
Macron spoke mostly in Serbian and was often interrupted by applause. He said France will never forget the sacrifice of the Serbian people in World War I.
“They show that the message inscribed on this monument,“ We love France as it has loved us ”is still alive. A hundred years later. Now it’s my turn to tell you on behalf of my country that France loves you as you loved France, ”said Macron.
The French President ended his visit to Belgrade today with a meeting with students from the Regional Office for Youth Cooperation (RYCO).
When a reporter asked him why there was no meeting with the opposition, Macron replied that he would not meet them during the visit because their initiative was late, but added that there was an ongoing dialogue with the French embassy in Serbia.
“The political forces, including the opposition, are in constant dialogue with the embassy. They all attended the celebration (Bastille Day). The letter arrived this morning (July 15th) and I couldn’t take it because the program was done, ”said Macron.
Freedom and Justice Party leader Dragan Djilas posted a photo on his Twitter account on July 16 of a request to meet Macron, which stated that it would be on July 9, rather than the morning of July 15 had been sent. as the French President said.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Sam Morgan]