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German envoy: Berlin meeting proves Western Balkans has high priority

Posted in 12 April 2019

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The German ambassador to Serbia Thomas Schieb told N1 morning programme on Thursday that the meeting of the Western Balkans leaders in Berlin was planned at the initiative by Germany and France for quite some time, proving the region had a high priority.

The meeting is scheduled for April 29. Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Kosovo's President and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj respectively, as well as Albanian head of state Ilir Meta and Prime Minister Edi Rama, are expected to take part.

Schieb said that, among others, the invitees included the representatives of Slovenia and Croatia, the head of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker and the European Union High Representative and the Belgrade - Pristina dialogue on normalisation of relations mediator Federica Mogherini.

"The meeting shows the Western Balkans still enjoys a high priority for Berlin as well for Paris. We want to dedicate ourselves and to engage in the Western Balkans. Of course, one of the topics is the relations between Serbia and Kosovo," the ambassador said.

He added Berlin favoured the resumption of the dialogue which had been on hold since last November when Pristina introduced the 100 percent import tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia.

Schieb said Germany had repeatedly asked Kosovo's authorities to revoke the decision and enable the resumption of talks, adding he understood Belgrade's stand toward the issue. Serbia said the dialogue would only continue after the taxes were abolished.

Commenting on the idea of border changes between Serbia and Kosovo Schieb said Germany doubted that might be a solution.

"We think that it is impossible to solve all open issues at once though border changes, demarcation, division, name it. Border changes can have repercussions to the whole region and even to other areas. That's why we are so reserved regarding that," the ambassador said.

He said that Germany - Serbia partnership was good, and that Berlin wanted Belgrade in the EU as soon as possible, but added that depended on Serbia's reforms.

The ambassador added he did not know if car producer Volkswagen would come to Serbia as had been speculated by the media but added "it would be an excellent thing. The decision depends on the factory, and I hope it will be in Serbia's favour."

Commenting on media freedom in Serbia, Schieb said the free media were crucial for democracy.

"That's why we believe the freedom of media must be secured," he said, adding the protection of journalists who did their job should be guaranteed.

"I think the Government is aware of that problem (the safety of journalists) and that has been known for a while."

Asked about the anti-government protests across Serbia, Schieb said the critical thing for demonstrations was to remain calm and that there were no incident or unrest.