Serbia, Albania Seek Better Ties While Still at Odds on Kosovo

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Albania and Serbia must work together as European Union candidates and seek help from the bloc to build infrastructure even as they disagree over the fate of the breakaway province of Kosovo, their prime ministers said.

Making the first visit by a Serbian prime minister to Albania, which supports Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from the government in Belgrade, Aleksandar Vucic said his country will always regard the province as its “integral part.”

“It’s a fact that we’re not in unison regarding Kosovo,” Vucic said in a live broadcast on Serbian television from the Albanian capital Tirana on Wednesday. “We’re on a good path. We need to work on that.”

Serbia, the largest republic of former Yugoslavia, wants to join the EU at the end of this decade. It’s under pressure to work with Kosovo, whose declaration of independence has been recognized by most EU countries and the U.S.

Albania and Serbia should approach EU accession together, Premier Edi Rama said, according to Belgrade-based newspaper Danas. He is “convinced that the Albanian and the Serbian people can do for the Balkans today what France and Germany did for Europe after World War Two,” Danas reported on Tuesday.

Vucic also said the two countries should work together on infrastructure projects, and seek EU support to complete a planned highway linking southern Serbia with Albania’s Adriatic coast. The route of about 500 kilometers (310 miles) would traverse Kosovo. Serbia and Albania have been at odds since the 1998-1999 war over the province, whose population is dominated by ethnic Albanians.

“The fact that we have different views about certain things doesn’t mean we’re not aware that our countries have a significant role in maintaining peace,” Rama said, according to Serbian Tanjug news service. He also called for lowering trade barriers between the two nations.