Germany warns Balkans over stability, reforms
Germany's foreign minister warned Balkans nations Tuesday that conflict resolution and reforms were crucial to joining the EU, at the start of a regional tour in the wake of deadly clashes in Kosovo.
Guido Westerwelle, speaking after talks with Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic, said the European Union would only open the door to countries of the former Yugoslavia that represented stability and commitment to democracy.
"What I say applies to all the countries in the region: the path into the European Union goes only via democracy, via reforms and via cooperation and peaceful conflict resolution," he told reporters.
"The territorial integrity of the countries of this region are for Germany non-negotiable," he said, in a reference to Kosovo and Serbia's refusal to recognise its independence.
Westerwelle welcomed Montenegro's reform efforts and encouraged it to continue efforts to revamp its electoral system to ensure fairer representation of all the country's ethnic groups.
Luksic said Montenegro strongly backed EU-brokered talks between Serbia and Kosovo launched in March that recently faltered.
"We are prepared to help," he said.
Westerwelle is the first EU foreign minister to visit the region since a flare-up at the border between Serbia and Kosovo last month. He is scheduled to visit Croatia Wednesday and Kosovo Thursday.
NATO negotiated a deal this week to cool friction in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo and allow Pristina and Belgrade to return to talks with EU mediators in September.
Under the deal, two border crossings will become NATO-manned military security zones.
The crisis erupted when Pristina two weeks ago ordered its security forces to take over the border crossings to enforce a ban on imports from Serbia.
The move was a belated response to a similar step by Belgrade taken in 2008 when the Serbian province unilaterally proclaimed its independence. All but five EU members now recognise Kosovo as independent.
An ethnic Albanian police officer was killed and four were injured in clashes which NATO troops had to defuse.
The EU granted Montenegro formal status as a candidate country last year. Serbia and Kosovo also hope to one day join the bloc.
While in Podgorica, Westerwelle is to sign a war graves treaty covering the remains of around 2,000 German soldiers killed in Montenegro during World War II, giving them a burial site for the first time.
© 2011 AFP