Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said that Vienna will support any solutions agreed by Serbia and Kosovo, including a possible modification of the border, and that he has no reason to speculate that Croatia will block Serbia's EU path which it has supported so far.
"Our position is clear: we support anything the two parties agree, including a possible modification of the border, if that ultimately leads to a comprehensive solution that would bring about greater stability. The goal must be to ensure that all open issues are resolved through dialogue," Kurz told the Serbian news agency Tanjug in Vienna, in an interview published on Monday.
Underscoring the importance of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and their return to the negotiating table, Kurz said that the European integration process depended on this. "A new dynamic is necessary because a negotiated settlement is a precondition for subsequent accession to the EU," he added.
Asked if the EU was strong enough to resolve the Kosovo issue and whether it had any influence on Pristina, given that it has ignored appeals from Brussels to lift tariffs on Serbian goods, the Austrian chancellor said that the EU had different ways of acting, and was doing it all the time. Everything depends on Belgrade and Pristina and they need a sufficient political desire for compromise, he noted.
Kurz welcomed the appointment of Matthew Palmer as US special envoy for the Western Balkans, saying that "only together" could the United States and the European Union arrive at a political agreement in the Balkans. "I am confident the EU will closely cooperate with him," he said.
Kurz said he supported clear accession prospects for all Western Balkans countries, provided that they met the membership criteria by implementing the necessary reforms.
Asked about frequent difficulties between Serbia and EU member Croatia over the protection of the Serb minority in Croatia and the possibility of Zagreb blocking Serbia's EU path, Kurz said he would not speculate about hypothetical issues.
"Croatia has supported Serbia's accession process so far and I have no reason to assume that this will change. As for the protection of the minorities, this of course is an issue of great importance in all members of the European Council and the EU," Kurz said.
He said that Austria, Hungary and other EU members that care about the Western Balkans would support the countries in the region in their efforts to join the EU. He said that the new European Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, would pursue intensive accession talks with Serbia and Montenegro so that they could advance as swiftly as possible towards EU membership.
Reforms are crucial for further progress and the Western Balkan countries must implement them by themselves, the Austrian chancellor said.
He recalled that on entering the EU Serbia would have to leave all bilateral free trade agreements it has with Russia and Eurasian countries. Serbia should not overlook the fact that it conducts 63 percent of its foreign trade with the EU, while its trade with Russia accounts for 10 percent, he added.
Kurz believes that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will continue to vigorously pursue the necessary reforms to take Serbia into the EU as soon as possible.