Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is visiting Kosovo and Serbia on 22 and 23 April. In Kosovo, he will be holding talks with President Vjosa Osmani, Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Foreign Minister Donika Gёrvalla. In Serbia, Minister Maas will meet with President Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, Minister of European Integration Joksimović and Foreign Minister Selaković. At the end of his trip, Foreign Minister Maas will inaugurate the new chancery building of the German Embassy in Belgrade.
The COVID-19 pandemic can only be overcome if it is brought under control all over the world.
Europe has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a severe economic and social toll on many countries. That is why this trip is focussing on joint efforts to combat the pandemic. Serbia’s vaccination campaign is making great progress. The EU, for its part, is assisting the countries of the Western Balkans by making available 650,000 doses of vaccine. Moreover, both Serbia and Kosovo have received their first deliveries of vaccines through the multilateral COVAX Facility. Germany is one of the leading supporters of this initiative. Prior to his departure on 22 April, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas emphasised the importance of fighting the pandemic together:
The pandemic has clearly shown us once again how closely the fates of Germany, the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkans are intertwined. Nobody in Europe remains unaffected by the success or the failure of their neighbours. The fact that now we in the EU share the increasing progress in vaccination also with the countries of the Western Balkans is a crucial moment in the joint fight against the virus. However, my talks in Pristina and Belgrade will also focus on how we can work together to more effectively mitigate the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
A contribution to normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo
Germany strongly supports helping the Western Balkans make progress towards the EU, along with stronger cooperation in the region. An important instrument for this is collaboration in the context of the Berlin Process that was initiated by the German Government in 2014. However, the repeated tensions that have arisen in Serbian-Kosovar relations are hampering the development of the two countries and of the region.
In Kosovo, there was recently a change at the top level of government: the new administration of Prime Minister Kurti assumed office one month ago and has vowed to embark on a series of reforms. Vjosa Osmani was elected as the new President on 4 April. Foreign Minister Maas intends to harness the momentum of this new beginning. Speaking prior to departure, he emphasised:
The still unresolved relationship between Serbia and Kosovo is hampering the development of both countries and the entire region – and hence their further progress towards the European Union. I therefore intend also to use my visit to explore on the ground how we can support the EU-facilitated normalisation dialogue between the two countries. The assumption of office of the new government in Pristina is a good opportunity for this. At the same time we are visibly investing in our relations with Serbia with the opening of our new Embassy in Belgrade. We are thereby underscoring our commitment to our belief that the future of the countries of the Western Balkans lies in the EU.