Western Balkans countries need to draw closer to the European Union, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday in Vienna, after meeting with prime ministers of five countries of the region, the Beta news agency reported.
At a joint news conference following a working breakfast, Kurz said Austria was a reliable partner to the Western Balkans with which it shared historical, economic, political, cultural and human ties.
The European Union will be complete only when the Western Balkan countries become full members. That’s why we support the candidate countries’ efforts and why we have made this topic one of the central topics of our EU presidency, he said.
Austria took over the rotating six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union in July this year.
Kurz met with prime ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia for talks about reforms and security in the Balkans. They were joined by the European Commissioners for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, and for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel.
Kurz promised the prime ministers full support on their EU journey.
Today we had the opportunity to focus on three important topics – the region’s EU journey, regional cooperation and resolving bilateral disputes. We realise that stability in Europe depends also on stability and security in the Western Balkans, he said.
Regional economic cooperation is an important step in EU integration, Hahn said, adding it was necessary to increase the volume of economic cooperation.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said Serbia hoped to open several more policy chapters in its EU accession negotiations during the six months of Austria’s EU presidency.
Serbia’s membership negotiations with the EU started in January 2014, and the country opened 14 out of 34 chapters in its accession negotiations so far. Earlier this year, the European Commission said Montenegro and Serbia could potentially become full EU members by 2025.
Bosnian Council of Ministers Chairman Denis Zvizdic said he hoped that his country would soon be awarded EU candidate status. Bosnia formally applied for membership in February 2016.