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Austria's Kurz Offers Support For Serbian, Balkan Bids To Join EU

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (left) meets with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade on November 5.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has visited Belgrade and said he backs the efforts of Serbia and neighboring Balkan countries to join the European Union.

After a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on November 5, Kurz told a news conference that Austria was doing everything it can to support Serbia's EU bid, and "the EU will be complete when the Western Balkans countries join it."

Vucic is a longtime nationalist who has remade himself as a pro-European Union reformer while at the same time seeking to maintain good relations with Belgrade's traditional ally, Russia.

Kurz also said that successful completion of talks between Belgrade and Pristina on resolving their long-standing differences over Kosovo's declaration of independence 10 years ago will be crucial for Serbia to progress on its path to joining the EU.

The dialogue held in Brussels under EU auspices has been on hold for months without any sign of when it may resume.

"Serbia's entry into the EU is possible only if there is a solution in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, which is why this dialogue should be successfully concluded," Kurz said.

Kosovar President Hashim Thaci and Vucic last met face to face in August in Alpbach in western Austria. During a last round of dialogue in September, they refused to sit at the same table and had separate meetings with Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign-policy and security chief who mediated the talks.

After visiting Belgrade, Kurz will go in Pristina, where he will have meetings with Thaci and the prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj.

Kurz's visit to Belgrade comes after a visit two weeks ago by Austrian President Aleksander van der Belen. The president of the Austrian parliament, Wolfgang Sobotka, also plans to visit in the middle of November.