Germany hails Croatia as example for strife-hit Balkans
Germany's foreign minister on Wednesday hailed Croatia's path into the European Union as an example for Balkan countries amid fresh tensions between EU hopefuls Serbia and Kosovo.
Guido Westerwelle said after talks in Dubrovnik with his Croatian counterpart Gordan Jandrokovic that Germany hoped all the countries of the former Yugoslavia would join the EU but that there would be no "shortcuts".
"Anyone can see with the example of Croatia: those who make an effort and live by European values, from the rule of law to economic discipline, will be welcomed into the European Union with open arms," he said.
"But it has to happen in that order. Each country must first fulfil its obligations. Croatia did not take shortcuts but rather, successfully achieved this historic goal by its own efforts, with hard work and great discipline and also with setbacks."
Asked what he would advise Serbia, Jandrokovic said Belgrade must "work on reforms that change society as well as the state."
"It must speak and act based on European values. That is what Croatia did," he said. "It was not always easy. We were at times very irritated with the European side. We will of course help our neighbours," he said.
"It is in our interest and the interest of the European Union for them to become EU members."
After wrapping up accession talks in June, Croatia is on course to become the EU's 28th member in mid-2013.
Both Serbia and Kosovo aim to join the bloc but violent clashes last month over a customs row led EU leaders to warn that the conflict must be put to rest before either side could progress toward accession.
The two sides started EU-brokered talks in March aimed at cooling friction and ending the day-to-day headaches faced by ordinary people after Belgrade's refusal to recognise Kosovo's unilateral breakaway in 2008.
The negotiations stalled amid the latest tensions but are due to resume in mid-September.
Westerwelle is to visit Kosovo Thursday at the end of a three-day Balkans tour for talks with prime minister Hashim Thaci and General Erhard Buehler, the German commander of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force.
© 2011 AFP