It is in the interests of the Serbian people to pursue the European Union path, High Representative Federica Mogherini said today.
Speaking to the press with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić after a speech in parliament which a group of anti-EU politicians attempted to disrupt through heckling, Mogherini said:
"We are living in times of uncertainty and potential tensions that could destabilise the region, beyond the region, and put at risk the achievements that we managed to build also thanks to hard work, but also common work we have on some important issues both internally in Serbia, in the region and more globally.
"The message I am bringing, and I hope it could be heard, not withstanding the noise in the parliament, is that we recognise that Serbia has chosen the European Union integration path consistently.
"We believe and we see that this goes beyond some of the party lines and that this is exactly in the interest of the Serbian people for ... our economic ties, but also what concerns our common work to improve the judiciary, the rule of law, the media system in the country, an environment that can attract investments, but also that can guarantee a better life, not only a better future but also a better present, for all Serbs."
Mogherini underlined that decisions about the future were for the Serbian people to take, and was not perturbed by the heckling, which she described as "part of the democratic discussion in this country that we respect".
The High Representative also urged closer regional cooperation and lasting peace in the Western Balkans.
"We need strong, stable, open, democratic partners in the region to work with them on that; second, integration and regional cooperation, good neighbouring relations are the key for also economic development of the region which is, we know, the number one priority for the people here."
From Belgrade, the High Representative traveled to the Albanian capital, Tirana.
Addressing students at Tirana University, she urged them to encourage their politicians to pursue the reforms needed to move the country towards the door of the EU.
"And so I believe that it is not because the European Union asked for it but because the Albanians ask for it: a more independent justice system, that there is a responsibility now for the institutions of this country to implement that reform with the same unity that they managed to find when they voted the reform in Parliament last July.
"Also because a more independent justice system will help Albania fight organised crime, corruption, all sorts of illegal trafficking. It will give more confidence to young entrepreneurs; it will make the country more attractive for investors that are coming from the outside; it will boost economic growth and also something - which is not irrelevant - it would give the justice system of this country a credibility that would entrust it in the eyes of the citizens, a system that is equal and fair for all."
On Saturday, Mogherini completes her visit to the six Western Balkans countries in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.