The two leaders talked about integration of Western Balkans into the EU, after Croatia blocked part of Serbia’s negotiations with the European Union.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković spoke by phone with US Vice President Joe Biden about Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans, announced the White House, after Croatia blocked the opening of a chapter in Serbia’s negotiations with the EU, reports Index.hr on December 14, 2016.
The statement says that Biden and Plenković talked about the importance of Euro-Atlantic integration of all countries in the Western Balkans. “The leaders agreed that progress toward this goal would contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the entire region”, announced Biden’s office, without giving details.
After Serbia opened two chapters in accession negotiations with the EU, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić said in Belgrade that just one member of the EU, Croatia, opposed the opening of the third chapter relating to education and culture. He thanked Slovakia on its efforts to open all three chapters, as well as the United States, saying that Biden spoke on the phone with Croatian representatives, noting the need to open the chapter.
Croatian Prime Minister Plenković said that with the US Vice President Joe Biden he did not specifically discuss the blockade of Serbia’s negotiations with the EU, but the issue of how can Croatia help the countries of Southeast Europe on the road to EU and NATO.
Plenković confirmed to reporters that he spoke with Biden, but that the blockade of Serbia was discussed “in general”. “There was no discussion specifically about the blockade, but about the process of accession negotiations, and how in this whole context Croatia can use its experiences to be of help to our neighbours”, said Plenković.
Commenting on Vučić’s statement, he said that “things are very clear and transparent”. “Serbia is in the process of accession negotiations, there is a series of chapters, a number of criteria to be met. We believe that Serbia is on its way to meet them”, said Plenković. “With regards to the chapter relating to culture and education, Croatia has maintained its reservations due to certain aspects concerning education, textbooks and minorities. We expect Serbia’s progress in this regard”, he explained.
Serbia on Tuesday opened negotiations in two other chapters – on public procurement and on science and research, so now the total number of opened chapters increased to six. Serbia expected to also open negotiations in the chapter on Education and Culture, but member states had not yet given their approval. Croatia was among those who had reservations about that chapter.
Croatian Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier said that Croatia had requested additional explanations from the European Commission, and that the reservations could be removed very soon, perhaps early next year. Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva confirmed that her government had not received requested information and therefore could not withdraw its reservation. Most of Bulgarian issues refers to the rights of the Bulgarian minority in eastern Serbia.