European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Western Balkan countries Monday to take Ukraine’s path and pace towards EU membership as an example and criticized Serbia’s close ties with Russia.
”We want to advance on enlargement, and we sent a strong message that they need to seize the momentum in the enlargement process created by the swift progress of Ukraine. Ukraine is progressing. They (also) have to follow this path at the same pace. Now is the time for them to speed up reforms, to align with the European Union’s standards and to prepare their societies for accession. There is an opportunity, a unique opportunity. They have to use it,” said Borrell.
His remarks came at a press conference after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Borrell said the foreign ministers of six countries in the Western Balkans region, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, exchanged views on Russia’s influence in the region.
”We discussed about Russia’s influence, which is trying to derail the European path of the Western Balkans candidates. We welcomed the strategic and courageous choices of some of them, who aligned fully with our foreign policy and sanctions,” he said.
Borrell also criticized Serbia for not aligning its foreign policy with that of the European Union.
”We also indicated to those who have not fully aligned yet, or not aligned at all — and I want to mention notably Serbia — that maintaining close ties with Russia is not compatible with its European Union accession process. It is also damaging to its own national interests, but certainly it is not compatible with the accession process towards the European Union,” he said.
Serbia, which aspires to become an EU member, has resisted implementing Western sanctions on Russia because of Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
President Aleksandar Vucic has repeatedly said that he is being pressured by Western allies to sanction Russia.
Russia backs Serbia’s refusal to recognize the independence of its former province of Kosovo — an issue which recently exacerbated tensions between Belgrade and Pristina.