BELGRADE – The United States’ annual message to Serbia to mark its national day made no mention of the country’s bid to join the European Union, which Washington has previously supported.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday issued a short statement to extend to Serbia his best wishes and hopes for “a prosperous future”, two days ahead of its national day.
But the wording of the statement underlines the extent to which President Donald Trump’s new US administration has moved on from its predecessor’s support for the European Union.
The United States stands committed to cooperation with Serbia to ensure stability and prosperity in the Balkans, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement on Monday.
“On this important occasion, we reiterate our commitment to further deepen the friendship between the United States and Serbia,” the statement, in honor of Serbia’s national day, said.
The statement stressed the long history of friendship and cooperation between the two nations and Serbia’s efforts to promote economic reform, rule of law and improve relations in the region.
“By working together we can foster peace and prosperity throughout the Balkans,” the statement said.
But he made no mention of Serbia’s recent bid to join the European Union or of what the State Department has often previously referred to as its “Euro-Atlantic aspirations”.
The statement came amid renewed tensions between Serbia and the breakaway region of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008. Serbia is not among the 100 UN member states that recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Last year on the same day, by contrast, former president Barack Obama’s secretary of state John Kerry underlined US support for Serbia’s EU entry in the clearest of terms.
“We applaud Serbia’s commitment to the EU accession process and related reforms,” Kerry wrote in February 2016.
“The hard work of adopting EU norms and standards will lead to a more prosperous, democratic Serbia that is more fully integrated into Euro-Atlantic institutions.”
The State Department would not issue a statement in support on Serbia’s EU ambition but, speaking on condition of anonymity six hours after Tillerson’s statement, one official insisted the policy had not changed.
“The United States remains fully supportive of Serbia’s European Union accession efforts,” he insisted.