Austria to remain a bridge between EU and Serbia

by Cristian Florescu

Austria will continue to be a bridge between the EU and Serbia, and other Western Balkan countries, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said in Belgrade on Thursday, writes EURACTIV

Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is important for Serbia and other countries of the region “that the EU takes a clear stance and gives a clear signal that these countries belong in the Union and in Europe,” said Nehammer at a joint news conference in Belgrade after meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.

“As the EU, we must do everything for the process of accession (of the Western Balkans) to be accelerated. Austria views itself as a bridge in that process, and it is very important for us that the process accelerates,” Nehammer said.

He stated that relations with Serbia were “of great significance” for Austria and that Serbia was “an important geostrategic and political partner for Austria, and thus for the EU, too.”

“It is important for Austria that we work together because we are equally affected by the phenomenon of organised crime or that of illegal migration. It is the obligation and interest of an EU member state to give a clear signal that we should work together on finding solutions to problems,” the Austrian chancellor added.

Nehammer also highlighted the “great concern” over Russia’s large influence in the Western Balkans and China’s “great interest in positioning itself” in the region. Austria “very much depends” on Russian gas and the issue of how to approach that dependence remains open, he added.

Brnabić, for her part, said that Serbia would do everything in its power to stop the instability in eastern Europe from spilling over into the Balkans.

“We discussed this openly. Many in the EU are worried about the crisis spilling over into the Western Balkans. I clearly assured our partners in Austria and the rest of the EU that Serbia will continue to play the role of a country that is a pillar of stability in the Western Balkans and that we will be an exporter of peace and stability. As much as it is up to us, we will not allow the instability and crisis to spill over into this part of Europe,” Brnabić said at a news conference after the meeting.

Brnabić said that Austria was one of Serbia’s closest partners and was helping to push Serbia’s European integration forward.

Nehammer, who is on a two-day visit to the Western Balkans which includes Sarajevo and Priština, also met President Aleksandar Vučić and Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin in Belgrade.

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