German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has said Berlin is ready to support Serbia on its path to the European Union membership, but added that the Balkan country must "continue reforms" and "continue to develop better relations with Kosovo."
Speaking on April 12 after meeting Serbian President-elect Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade, Gabriel said that Serbia was a "factor of stability" in the region.
He said that daily protests after Vucic's election victory on April 2 were part of the country's democratic process and should remain peaceful.
Vucic, who has dismissed allegations of irregularities in the campaign, said the protests presented "an expression of Serbia's democratic strength."
Before leaving for Belgrade earlier in the day, Gabriel urged Balkan states to overcome their divisions, saying, "We see that some wounds of the past still run deep and still keep the tensions up."
"I will assure my counterparts: The path toward the European Union remains open if you choose reforms and progress instead of divisions and stalemate," said the German minister, who is to visit Kosovo on April 13.
Gabriel also said he would voice "support for democratic development and rule of law" in all countries of the region.
Predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo broke away from Serbia in a 1998-99 war and declared independence in 2008. It is recognized by 114 countries, but not by Belgrade.
Tensions are still high, both between Serbia and Kosovo and between the ethnic Serbian minority and central authorities within Kosovo.
Serbia is now an EU candidate, while Kosovo is a prospective candidate. Albania, which Gabriel is to visit on April 16, and Macedonia are also candidates, while Bosnia-Herzegovina is another prospective candidate.
Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa