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To join EU Serbia must recognize Kosovo: German Minister

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel | kremlin

The acceptance of Serbia as part of the European Union has always been conditioned with its recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, which is being restated by different officials.

This time, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has reiterated that “If Serbia wants to move toward the European Union, the building of the rule of law is a primary condition, but naturally also the acceptance of Kosovo's independence," at a joint news conference with Kosovo's Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj in Pristina late on February 14.

"That is a central condition to take the path toward Europe," said Gabriel at a joint news conference with Kosovo's Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj in Pristina late on February 14.

The German Minister said he had given the same message to Serbian officials in Belgrade earlier on February 14, according to sources.

Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence 10 years ago. However, Belgrade has never recognized Kosovo's move despite its recognition by 115 other countries, including 23 of 28 EU members. Moreover, Gabriel said his country would help to secure Kosovo's recognition by the five EU member states that have not yet done so -- Spain, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, and Slovakia.

Germany was one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo's independence, along with the United States, France, and the United Kingdom.

"Such recognition makes sense because Kosovo will never again be a part of Serbia," he said. During his visit, Gabriel also urged Kosovo to continue efforts to resolve a border dispute with Montenegro so it can join the EU's visa-free Schengen travel zone.

Serbia hopes to join the EU by 2025, a date also targeted by Brussels as it looks to bring Western Balkan nations towards joining the EU.

Some Serbian officials have suggested partitioning Kosovo rather than having the recognition of Kosovo a binding condition for EU membership. Around 120,000 Serbs who live in Kosovo still consider Belgrade their capital, and they are financially supported by Serbia.

The European Commission says it wants to speed up the process of inclusion of six Balkan countries as members of the European Union. Critics say the move is also aimed at weakening Russia’s influence in the region.