March 9, 2013 - 12:56 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Greece on Friday, March 8 said it was in favor of Kosovo joining the EU and boosted its economic collaboration with Pristina, despite not yet having recognized the Balkan country's independence, eubusiness.com reports.
"There are varying opinions regarding the status of Kosovo within the European Union (...) but everyone agrees that the eastern Balkans have prospects in the EU," said Foreign Affairs Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Following a meeting with his Kosovo counterpart Enver Hoxhaj, Avramopoulos said the country "should work towards meeting the criteria and carrying out the reforms" required by the EU.
The Greek minister also announced the opening of a trade office in Athens to promote collaboration with Kosovo. "This office will not change Greece's stance vis-a-vis the status (of Kosovo), but it is a message to show that growth is a tool for peace," he said.
Nearly one hundred countries, including the United States and the majority of EU members, have recognised Kosovo as a sovereign state.
But Athens, which has traditionally been close to Belgrade and had supported Serbia during the war of the 1990s, refuses to recognise the independence of Pristina, declared five years ago.
"Of course we would hope very much in the near future to see a positive decision coming from Athens" regarding this subject, said Hoxhaj.
"For the time being 76 Greek companies have invested in Kosovo," he said, adding he wished to see more Greek investors and exports.
Serbia hopes to be given a date to start EU membership talks at a summit in June. But Brussels insists that Serbia must improve relations with Kosovo in order to begin negotiations.