France, Serbia discuss European enlargement, Kosovo dispute

Photo: EPA French President Emmanuel Macron and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic attend a joint press conference held at the Palace of Serbia in Belgrade, 15 July.

Serbia needs French support in European integration, as well as engagement to relieve tensions with its unilaterally seceded province of Kosovo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Belgrade on Monday. Macron arrived in the Serbian capital for a two-day official visit. Yesterday, he held "long, open and sincere" talks with Vucic at the Palace of Serbia. The first visit of a French president since 2001 reflects the open-handed approach of the French state and people to Serbia, Vucic said.

Among more than 20 agreements that the two countries signed at the Palace of Serbia on Monday are those that deal with missile shipment, subway construction, education, film-making and other fields of culture, as well as business.

At a following press conference, they said these talks mostly revolved around the future of Serbia's aspirations to become a part of the EU, the role of EU in finding solution for Serbia's conflict with its ex-province of Kosovo that unilaterally seceded in 2008, as well as potentials for development of bilateral and economic ties between Serbia and France.

Macron said his country, together with Germany, will help reopen the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and voiced against tariffs imposed by Pristina authorities on goods from central Serbia.

"If we believe in Europe, we cannot accept the fatality of conflicts that can last forever in Europe, nor that these conflicts should be resolved by powers that are not European. Our engagement is a sign of European sovereignty," Macron said.

However, he said although Serbia is doing well with reforms needed for its future membership, the EU is not functioning well and needs to prepare for enlargement.

"I think that the EU today is not functioning well, with its 28 member countries. I think that it would be completely compatible with the ongoing process of Serbia's accession, if EU initiated its own reforms to achieve faster decision making and improved efficiency," Macron said.

He called for new dynamism in bilateral relations between the two countries, especially through economic, educational and cultural cooperation,

"We want to develop our engagement in the economic sphere. Big French companies have been present here for several years already, but we wish to strengthen this," Macron said.

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