Germany wants to give a renewed push to the European perspective of the Western Balkans, promised at the Thessaloniki summit two decades ago and, at the same time, it expects EU membership candidates to join the sanctions against Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Belgrade on Friday.

“When it comes to European integration, we support all aspirations of the Western Balkans, and reforms in rule of law, media freedoms and the fight against corruption are needed on that path. We see that a judicial reform that represents such progress has been carried out, but further steps are needed,” Scholz told a press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

He said a meeting with Vucic had also addressed the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

“Progress in the dialogue is something that is necessary. I called on all leaders to ensure there is headway and that a series of small agreements are made to advance overall normalisation of relations,” he said.

He said Germany supported the activities of the EU special envoy for the dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak.

Scholz said he had also discussed with Vucic the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that it made no sense to threaten the country’s future with “secessionist tendencies”.

He said cooperation was very important for Germany and that he wanted the Western Balkans to make progress and have a full European perspective.

“In the future, the EU will only be successful as a great whole. We must defend our values together and it would be good if Western Balkan countries were a part of that,” Scholz added.

He said Germany’s economic ties with Serbia were developing well, and added that he was confident the number of jobs created by German companies in Serbia would continue to grow.

When asked by a reporter if there was a timeframe for EU accession of Serbia and other Western Balkan countries given the Serbians’ fatigue from promises by the EU and European leaders and in view of opinion polls suggesting a decline of the EU’s popularity in Serbia, Scholz responded that he was an advocate of a soonest possible EU accession of Serbia and the Western Balkans and added that the region could count on Germany’s support in that regard.

“My goal is that we succeed in that, not in the distant future, but as soon as possible. It will not be possible in six months, as everyone knows, and it will take a long time, but it would be good to boost this with great courage,” he said.