The civil war in the 1990s left scars in the Western Balkans which are felt to this very day. However, the region has come a long way since then. Foreign Minister Gabriel therefore traveled to Serbia and Kosovo on Wednesday (12 April) with a message of encouragement: “The road to the EU will remain open if they opt for progress and reform instead of division and stagnation.”
A crucial phase for a key country
Gabriel first visited Serbia, a key country and anchor of stability in the region. On 2 April, Aleksandar Vucic won the country’s presidential elections by a clear margin. Nevertheless, the election triggered major demonstrations by those unhappy with Serbia’s current development. Before meeting Vucic, the President-elect and outgoing Prime Minister, Gabriel also commented on the protests. “It is good that peaceful demonstrations against a democratically elected government can take place here without state intervention.”
Reforms and relations with Kosovo
As Serbia’s foremost trading partner, Germany is important to the country, which traditionally also has close relations with Russia. Germany stood firmly at Serbia’s side on its road to Europe, as Gabriel underscored in Belgrade. Turning to the time-frame, he went on to say that the reform tempo and the normalisation of relations with Kosovo were decisive. Both were basic prerequisites for accession to the EU. Continuing the reform course towards the European Union would send an important message to the entire region.
One of Kosovo’s largest donors
Germany plays a key supporting role in Kosovo when it comes to developing stable state structures. The Bundeswehr is one of the biggest contributors of troops to the KFOR mission, which ensures security in the country. And since the Kosovo war in 1999, Germany has been one of the country’s largest bilateral donors, providing more than 550 million euros for emergency measures, humanitarian assistance and for technical and financial cooperation.