Kosovo will make an official application to join the European Union at the end of the year, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on Friday at a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who is visiting Western Balkans.

“We still aspire to the status of EU candidate and we plan to apply at the end of this year,” Kurti said after meeting Scholz. “Europe is our destiny. Europe is our future.”

Kosovo, which has been an independent country since 2008, currently only has the status of a potential candidate in the EU. Formerly a province of Serbia, the population of Kosovo is now majority Albanian.

Serbia continues to claim Kosovo as its own territory and five EU members — Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Cyprus — have not recognized Kosovo as an independent state.

Russia and China also do not recognize Kosovo, effectively blocking Pristina from a seat at the United Nations.

Infografik EU Beitrittskandidaten Westbalkan EN

Scholz calls on Kosovo and Serbia to negotiate

EU-brokered talks between Kosovo and Serbia, launched over a decade ago, have so far failed to achieve normalization of their ties.

Scholz called for progress in negotiations between the former foes. Kosovo and Serbia must “find a political solution with a comprehensive, sustainable agreement that also contributes to regional stability”, Scholz said after his talks with Kurti.

The German chancellor also stressed the importance of fending off Russian influence in the region, praising Kosovo for its stance on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Through their support of all measures and sanctions, Albin Kurti and the government of Kosovo have shown that Kosovo, as a reliable partner, stands closely by our side, and by the side of the European and international community,” Scholz added.

Scholz asks Serbia to join EU sanctions on Russia

Later on Friday, Scholz visited Belgrade where he had asked Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to join European Union sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference with Vucic, Scholz said that as an EU membership candidate, Serbia should join the bloc in its measures against Moscow, which all its members were required to follow.

However, Vucic said Serbia was in a difficult position and that the EU should consider that Serbia and Russia had long-standing special ties.

“As far as sanctions are concerned we have different position…. We remember sanctions (against Serbia) and we do not think sanctions are efficient,” Vucic said.

He did not say whether Serbia planned to introduce sanctions on Russia.

Scholz is on a two-day tour of five of the Balkan states. The Kosovar capital of Pristina is the first stop, Belgrade is the second. Scholz will also visit Thessaloniki Friday, followed by trips to North Macedonia and Bulgaria the next day.

dh/rs (AFP, dpa)

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