news 07 Sep 15

Merkel, Vucic Discuss Balkans’ Refugee Crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Berlin and said that Belgrade needs friendly support in order to deal with influx of refugees and migrants.

Igor Jovanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin | Photo by Beta/AP

Merkel said on Monday that Serbia was in a difficult position as a transit country for refugees and migrants and needs help.

“We know how many problems a country like Serbia can have because of that. That is why we want to talk in a friendly way about how to act in this situation,” Merkel said in comments reported by Belgrade’s Beta news agency.

Vucic said that Serbia was acting “responsibly, seriously and [in a] European [manner]” in its attempts to handle the crisis.

He said Serbia was prepared, although not an EU member, to “bear its share of responsibility… and to provide serious help to its European partners”.

He also stressed that the influx of refugees was a European-wide issue.

“For us, this is not the problem of Germany; this is not a problem of any individual country, this is a problem for the whole of Europe… and we are ready to cooperate with Germany but also with all other EU countries in order to resolve this issue,” he said.

Many refugees and migrants have been trying to reach the richer EU countries via Serbia and Hungary. Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on September 4 that since the beginning of the year, 120,000 people had also declared their intention to seek asylum in Serbia.

Merkel and Vucic also talked about the problem of so-called fake asylum-seekers from Serbia, and the German Chancellor said that Serbia was a safe country so its citizens cannot be granted asylum in Germany.

Vucic said that Serbia would adopt a law which abolish the right of its citizens who were not granted asylum to receive social assistance in Serbia.

“We believe that this will dramatically reduce the influx of asylum-seekers from Western Balkans countries into Germany,” he said.

Aleksandra Joksimovic, director of the Centre for Foreign Policy in Belgrade, told BIRN believes that Serbia will gain German support to deal with the refugee crisis.

“Serbia is a kind of the collateral damage of the refugee crisis and it needs help. Serbia can be a part of the solution, but it cannot find the solution itself,” Joksimovic said.

Merkel also said on Monday that the recent agreements between Serbian and Kosovo represented “substantial progress” which contributes significantly to peace in the Western Balkans.

“These are courageous decisions taken by Pristina, but especially by Belgrade… I believe that these results give an important impulse to the progress of Serbia towards the EU," Belgrade-based Tanjug news agency quoted Merkel as saying.

Vucic said he hoped that Serbia would open the first chapters in membership negotiations with the EU by the end of the year.

“We have fulfilled some difficult tasks, and we will do the same in the future,” he said.

Joksimovic said that Vucic’s visit to Berlin was highly significant.

“It is especially important that Vucic is going to speak in the Bundestag since German MPs set the conditions for Serbia to progress on its European path. So it is very important to obtain the support of the Bundestag because not even Merkel can act against its stance,” she said.

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