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EU incomplete without Western Balkans: Juncker

BELGRADE (Xinhua) -- The European Union is "keen" to receive Serbia and other Western Balkans countries as members when they meet preconditions, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic on Monday.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (right) shakes hands with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Belgrade, Serbia on Tuesday.   --Photo Xinhua

"Relations with the Western Balkans are a priority for the EU. I always thought that Serbia and the region must become a part of the EU because the union is not complete without them," Juncker said at a press conference after meeting Vucic in Villa Mir in Belgrade.
At the same time, Juncker stressed that rule of law, judiciary and bilateral relations remain the toughest challenges.
He added that the strategy for Western Balkans recently adopted by the EU contains concrete instruments to speed up Serbia's EU path, but reminded that year 2025 envisaged by the strategy is not a definite date, but "a perspective, an indicative date".
"It takes time to implement key reforms so that they would become rooted in our societies and lives. As soon as it meets these preconditions, Serbia will become a member country," Juncker said.
Juncker continued that Serbia made the biggest progress in the process of European integration compared to other candidate countries from the region, but that problems still exist when it comes to rule of law and the judiciary system.
Juncker agreed with Vucic about the necessity to find a solution for the southern Serbian province of Kosovo that unilaterally declared independence in 2008.
He reminded that EU expects the two sides to reach a legally binding agreement about the normalization of their relations before Serbia becomes an EU member country. He said the EU is only a mediator in these negotiations, and that the two sides must agree about the character of their future agreement.
Vucic said that Serbia is looking for a way to achieve a compromise with Kosovo Albanians, but that the both sides will have to make compromises in order to achieve a solution adequate for both.
He said that the recently adopted EU strategy for the Western Balkans motivates Serbia to implement necessary reforms and prepare for the perspective of gaining full membership in the EU in seven years.

(Latest Update February 28, 2018)

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