Great Britain will continue to be active in the Western Balkans after Brexit and plans to raise the level of its cooperation with Serbia, British Ambassador in Belgrade Dennis Keefe told the Beta news agency on Tuesday.
“We were always one of the most active European Union members in promoting integration in the region and we will continue to do that. Our voice will be the voice advocating progress, reforms, reconciliation and a better future for the region,” the ambassador said, adding that Brexit does not mean the United Kingdom is leaving Europe.
Relations between London and Belgrade are complicated because we do not agree on all issues but there is room to improve them and attract more British investors, Keefe said. “Interest exists and is growing. It is not as big as I would like it to be and my team is working hard to support that interest,” he added.
The ambassador recalled that Great Britain secured financial aid to support reforms in Serbia, that Belgrade and London are cooperating in the fields of judiciary and internal affairs, that they are fighting against crime and extremism and cooperating on migrations.
“There are issues that we do not agree on, there are topics on which I hope we will agree in future but we have to work on it. It is very important for me as ambassador, that we can build quality bilateral relations and realize many positive things while working on issues we do not agree on,” Keefe said.
The British ambassador said his country wants to support Serbia on its European integration path because Serbia decided to go down that road but warned that it has to continue implementing reforms aimed at freedom of the media and the rule of law.
“Membership in the EU means getting in line with the Union’s common foreign policy and Serbia is obviously in line in some areas and not in others. One of the key reasons for that is Serbia’s relationship with Russia and the question of Kosovo. Those are issues that need to be worked on,” Keefe said.
“The key issue in regard to Russia are the common values of European, democratic states which is something that Russia does not respect. We were recently victims of that following the attack and attempted murder using chemical weapons in Salisbury. We saw that countries which Russia supports use chemical weapons in other places such as Syria. That is a very important issue for us, for all of Europe and it is a very important issue of Serbia since, like us, it is a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention,” the ambassador said.