Prime Ministers Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and Edi Rama of Albania said in Belgrade on Thursday that the countries in the region had a big common potential for cooperation in the future and that the European integration process was the path towards society's modernisation which would help Balkan states sever ties with the bad past.

Participating in a panel as part of the Belgrade Security Forum, Vucic and Rama agreed about the importance of European integration, saying it could facilitate better political ties in the future and help in drawing closer to the European Union. They said the European integration process also helped to build efficient institutions, the rule of law and the functioning of democracy.

"I'm not ashamed to say that we want better ties with Albanians, Bosnians, because I see that we have the potential for better growth than most member states. We have big potential in the future. We can do it together, but if we go against each other, we don't stand a chance," said Vucic.

He said Serbia would stay on the European integration oath and that there was no alternative to EU membership, but that he was frightened by the situation in the region. He said he was "not optimistic", mentioning "huge problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina" and that the EU had not reacted to Croatia's insults against Serbia. He said the problems in Bosnia were "evident" but that he could not accept that "the only culprit is the president of Republika Srpska," Bosnia's Serb entity.

Vucic said the trust between Serbia and Albania was "fragile" and underlined the importance of meetings and dialogue.

Rama said "leaders have the responsibility to make people understand that European integration is not a choice between different loves but between the future and the past, in the sense of what kind of state we want, what kind of institutions, what kind of society." He added "that wouldn't be possible without the Euro-integration mechanism."  

Alluding to Serbia's good relations with Russia, Rama said everyone could have a different opinion on Washington, Moscow or Brussels, but that one should realise "that there's no other mechanism than European integration that will help us make a break with the bad past and become modern."

Rama said Albania was in a different situation because "it isn't between two loves." "We have only one love, and that's the path to the West," he said, adding that "Albanians have always wanted to be part of Europe." He explained that in talking about two loves, he meant the feelings of Serbian and Albanian citizens and not the policies of their governments.

"We openly say that we wish to maintain good relations with Russia, but our strategic goal is the path to the EU," said Vucic.

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