Ursula von der Leyen's pledge for Serbia: make peace with Kosovo and prosperity will follow

Halfway through a four-day visit to the Western Balkans, the European Union’s top official was in Belgrade to meet Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s message was that there is money on the table, but only if Serbia and Kosovo can settle their differences.

EU leaders presented a six-billion euro investment package for the Western Balkans at a summit in Albania in early October.

But there are conditions.

Mrs Von der Leyen’s visit to Belgrade came a day after she had been in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that declared independence in 2008. Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo’s independence. Serbs in Kosovo have also refused to recognise Kosovan mayors and other municipal leaders after boycotting elections in a number of municipalities.

The simmering tensions between Belgrade and Pristina that saw violent clashes in September could jeopardise any EU investment.

The Ohrid Agreement drawn up in March provided a road map for peace and cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia.

At a news conference after their meeting, Ursula von der Leyen said: ”Enlargement is at the top of the agenda of the European Union. It is a time of global turbulence, so we must strengthen the unity and the security of our continent. And enlargement is the way to do it. We want Serbia to join our union. The offer is based on trust, on reciprocity and on partnership. It is a promise of peace and prosperity, and it is a unique opportunity right now that no one else can match.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, said: ”Serbia is committed to preserving peace and stability. Serbia knows its obligations. Serbia, in accordance with the agreement, will fulfil its obligations.”