The Austrian ambassador says the year of Serbia’s EU accession is not as important as EU’s determination that full membership will be the final outcome.

Johannes Eigner told regional TV N1 that 2019 is not a realistic deadline for Serbia to enter the EU, while 2020 is “an ambitious goal.”

He pointed points out, however, that the EU project “cannot be completed without the full integration of the Western Balkan countries” and added that Austria expects this outcome.

Eigner recalled that 10 accession negotiations chapters have been opened so far, and two temporarily detained. He compared Serbia’s path to EU membership to that of Croatia, which took six years from the formal opening of negotiations.

“Serbia has formally started its negotiations in 2014, if we add six years to that, the end would be 2020, although it is an ambitious goal,” he said, adding that the year was “not as important as the EU being determined that full membership of Serbia is the final outcome.”

Commenting on the last EC progress report on Serbia, Eigner said as a whole, it represents “a good balance, and appreciates the resolve of Serbia to go toward full membership in the EU, and that this process is conducted professionally.” He added that Chapter 23 contains “a lot of work.”

Eigner also said that Serbia represents “an important location for Austria” with many business entities from his country operating here, and that the two countries “can cooperate more in areas such as agriculture, organic food, tourism and cooperation on the Danube.”