French minister urges normalisation of ties in Balkans
French European Affairs Minister Jean Leonetti called here on Thursday for the normalisation of ties between countries in the volatile Balkans region and stressed it was a condition for their EU bid.
"There is a moral and real obligation that countries that join the European Union have solved problems with their neighbours," Leonetti told journalists.
Leonetti was referring namely to Serbia, the next stop of his visit in the region, which refuses to recognise the declaration of independence of its breakaway province of Kosovo.
"The future of all countries in the Western Balkans is Europe," the French minister stressed.
But, he emphasized that "Europe is a peacemaker and it is not possible to enter the EU without having normalised the relations with neighbours."
Serbia hopes to get candidate status in December, although Brussels has warned Belgrade's relations with Kosovo were among key criteria the country has to meet to progress towards EU membership.
The French minister arrived earlier Thursday in Croatia, which is set to become EU's 28th member in mid-2013, where he met President Ivo Josipovic and other officials.
Talking to journalists on the margins of a seminar on human trafficking, hhe hailed Croatia as an example for the region.
"An example since it fulfilled all demands (from Brussels), it committed itself to continue to implement reforms until it joins and since it is an element of stability for its neighbours," Leonetti emphasized.
Later on Thursday he was to travel from Zagreb to Belgrade and make a symbolic stop in Vukovar, the site of the worst atrocities during the 1990s war in Croatia.
Of the six former Yugoslav republics -- Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia -- only the latter is an EU member since 2004.
The former Yugoslav federation broke apart in the series of bloody wars in the 1990s.
© 2011 AFP