Serbia needs to decide which side it wants to be on, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“We want Serbia with us, but for that we need clear evidence that the country shares our values, such as the rule of law and democracy, and rejects the Russian invasion,” Von said. der Leyen in an interview with the Austrian daily. Wiener Zeitung and Kleine Zeitung.
She stressed that the candidates’ commitment to foreign policy is very important.
“Of course, we expect everyone to pull from the same side of the rope,” stressed the EC President.
Asked about the link between the Western Balkans and the status of Ukraine and what can be offered to these countries, she pointed out that almost all Western Balkan countries are on the European path away from Ukraine.
“I hope that we will find a solution, that we can finally keep our promise and start the accession negotiations. Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, can immediately enter the accession negotiations when it has reached 14 main points There has been a lot of progress and that should be recognized,” she said.
Asked about the time it will take for Ukraine to become a member of the EU, Von der Leyen underlined that the accession process is linked to progress. “How fast they move through the process depends on the candidates,” she said, noting that Slovakia and Turkey were granted candidate status in 1999, which Slovakia has done everything possible to implement. the necessary reforms and became a member five years later, while Turkey is further from membership than it has ever been.”
Von der Leyen said he had the impression that the Ukrainian authorities are very motivated and that the citizens are united around the desire to join the EU.
“They want to implement the necessary reforms as soon as possible. President Volodymyr Zelensky told me that they will do this even if there is no question of membership, because it is good for the country and the society. democracy. This is one of the reasons why we recommended to the Council of the EU to grant candidate status”, underlined the President of the EC.
Noting that many are of the view that the EU cannot overcome the admission of such a large and poor country without reforms, she said that the Union must define the preconditions it wishes to create for possible new enlargement cycles, adding that there is, for example, unanimity.
Asked what would happen if the governments did not agree on candidate status for Ukraine, Von der Leyen said he was confident that there would be positive decisions.
Asked about the Austrian proposal to reform the accession process, she recalled that the process was reformed only two years ago.
“Our proposal has been accepted by Parliament and the Council. This process has been modernized and strengthened. We now have the possibility to move forward more quickly thanks to the unification of procedures, or vice versa, if we recognize a setback, to seek treatment,” she added. said.
Asked how far the EU has come in relation to the seventh sanctions package against Russia, Von der Leyen pointed out that the Union was extremely united and successful around the first six packages, which cost Europe something itself, but cost Russia more.
“For example, the financial sector. The central bank of Russia has to pay dearly to maintain the stability of the ruble. In the economy, we have learned a lot about export control. Missing parts become a problem in all areas, the Russian planes almost cannot land anywhere outside the country, because certificates are missing. Parts are also missing in rail traffic, components are missing in the automotive industry. Now we have to see that there there are no holes,” she explained.
Regarding energy, she said that the EU has plans for emergency situations for the winter, which it has been working on since the start of the war in Ukraine.
“Right now our gas storage is 43% full, and we want it to be 80% by winter,” she explained. She stressed that the goal is to end the dependence on Russian gas, which is part of the agreement with US President Joe Biden, but also the agreement with Israel, Egypt, Norway and the Azerbaijan.
When asked if the gas embargo was on the table as an additional sanction against Russia, Von der Layen avoided a direct answer.
“We are on the way to becoming independent from Russia. Total gas consumption in the EU fell by 9% in the first quarter. People understand how important this is and how this is linked to high prices Russian deliveries are reduced by 30%,” the EC President said.