(EurActiv) — Germany has cautioned Serbia against cultivating deeper ties with Russia, warning that it could thwart its bid to join the European Union, a German government source said on Tuesday (1 November).
Two days ahead of a Western Balkans summit in the German capital intended to bolster relations with the six countries of the region, the senior official said Belgrade needed to decide whose side it was on: Moscow’s or the EU’s.
“The relationship with Serbia is complex — there is light as well as shadows,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Serbia’s relations with Russia are certainly part of the shadows.”
The source said the German government had been, for example, “surprised and disappointed” when Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selaković in September signed an agreement with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov agreeing to confer on foreign policy.
The German official said it was time for Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to get off the fence.
“If he takes the path to Europe, he will have support, from the EU as a whole and from the German government,” the source said.
“Should he choose the other path, it will have ensuing consequences” for Belgrade’s future with the EU, the official said.
Serbia has been a candidate to join the European Union since 2012 but its prospects are seen as bleak without a normalisation of relations with Kosovo. Belgrade does not accept majority-Albanian Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.
Tensions have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, with many Serbs sympathetic to traditional ally Russia.
Belgrade has condemned the invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations but has refused to align itself with European sanctions on Moscow.
Thursday’s summit in Berlin hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will bring together the heads of government of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia as well as EU leaders.
Participants from the Western Balkans are to sign three accords: on mutual recognition of identity documents, university degrees and professional credentials.