Serbia is a close partner and will remain one
Germany supports Serbia’s prospects of accession to the EU, declared Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference with Serbian President Aleksander Vučić. This was the first time the Chancellor had received him at the Federal Chancellery since he took office as President. They cooperated closely, however, during Aleksander Vučić’s term of office as Prime Minister of Serbia.
No accession to EU without reforms
Accession negotiations can only be successful, however, "if more progress is made on rule of law reforms and on protecting fundamental rights," underscored Angela Merkel.
Germany is working for a detailed review of what reforms are necessary. Parallel to this, the German government is supporting change inside Serbia. From dual vocational training to digital infrastructure, Germany is providing impetus for the modernisation of Serbian society, politics and industry.
At the beginning of February the European Commission again assured the Western Balkan states (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) that there are prospects of accession, but only when the necessary reforms have been undertaken and the pertinent criteria met.
Compromise for Kosovo
Angela Merkel also discussed Kosovo with Aleksander Vučić. Specifically, they looked at how Serbia can achieve a legal contractual agreement with Kosovo within the next few years. "I hope that the next meetings within the framework of the Berlin Process will enable us to make progress on this point," said the Chancellor. Since Kosovo seceded from Serbia ten years ago, there have been repeated disputes between the two states.
"We are aware that the tasks facing us in Serbia are challenging," said Aleksander Vučić – also with respect to relations between Serbia and Kosovo. The President assured the Chancellor that Serbia will continue to work on this. "Serbia is ready to embrace a compromise under which both sides have to give up something." It is more important, he said, to love the lives of our children than the lives of our ancestors.
Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the President for his efforts to seek a solution and his readiness to embrace compromise. "We will provide support wherever we are asked to."
Both countries intend to extend cooperation
The President thanked the Chancellor for her "honest engagement". Without her support and the support of the German government, the Western Balkan states might well be in a far more difficult position than they are today, he declared.
The Western Balkans Summit, an initiative of the Berlin Process, has been held annually since 2014. It has its roots in a German initiative to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. It aims to bring the Western Balkan states closer to the EU. The Summit is designed to encourage, strengthen and support cooperation among the states in the Western Balkan region.
Robust trade links
Aleksander Vučić praised the economic and trading relations that link the two countries. Some 43,000 people in Serbia work for German companies, he said. The Chancellor confirmed this. "Trade between Germany and Serbia is worth four billion euros a year," she said. This makes Germany Serbia’s single largest trading partner.
"Relations with Serbia are very good and very close," said the Chancellor. The 400,000 Serbs living in Germany are like a bridge that links the two countries.
War graves agreement for reconciliation
The Chancellor expressed her thanks for positive news: the war graves agreement has been clarified. This marks a milestone in relations between the two countries. "It is a contribution to political reconciliation," agreed Aleksander Vučić.