Germany warns Balkans over stability, reforms

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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

3 Comments To This Article

  • Petar Nikolic. posted:

    on 11th August 2011, 14:30:24 - Reply

    I've never heard such rubbish. Since when did the West regard Serbs as victims. If being subjected to 78 days of horrific aerial bombardment, being ethnically cleansed from Croatia, parts of Bosnia, and virtually all of Kosovo is being traeted as innocent victims I dread to think how the so-called West would react if they percieved you as their enemy. The West, in particular Germany, the UK, and the US have punished Serbia incessantly for years now. And I suppose sending heavily armed paramilitary police to overwhelmingly Serb areas isn't stirring tensions is it. What planet are you on chum?
  • hold on a moment posted:

    on 11th August 2011, 01:40:53 - Reply

    Poor old Serbs, the world has always been so unfair to them. I mean we all know they were apparently "victims" in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo... where will it all end for them? How many "Serb countries" do they want? The Serbs insist on Serbian "independence" wherever they have ethnic minorities, such as Croatia (we won't even mention the Bosnian mess) yet are addicted to "boulder revolutions" whenever and wherever they are not happy. They're simply going to continue stirring tensions until the powderkeg explodes again, with them as the usual 'victims'. The sooner the west stops treating serbs as innocents in the whole of the balkan history, the better for the whole region. remember why NATO is in Kosovo in the first place??
  • Wim Roffel posted:

    on 10th August 2011, 10:17:17 - Reply

    I don't think this is an accurate description of the role of NATO in this affair. NATO was far from neutral. NATO may very well have been informed of the Albanian grab for the border posts and after the Albanian special forces have driven away from the border they initially helped them back to the border. Later on they put pressure on the Serbs by closing the border.

    Instead of a negotiated deal one can better describe this as a NATO imposed deal. It does not restore the situation before the Albanian raid but rewards the violence with far going concessions to the Albanians.

    The Serbs in Kosovo's North have very good reasons not to want to live under te rule of Pristina. A considerable part of them are refugees from elsewhere in Kosovo where the Serbs have been nearly completely driven from the cities and only survive in the safety of mono-ethnic enclaves.