To: 04/05/2022 19:22
Six countries, one goal: the Western Balkan countries want to join the EU. Chancellor Scholz supports them in this – he made that clear today. The fund is also concerned about Russia’s influence in the region.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to ensure stability in the Western Balkans and advocates rapid EU membership: “All his countries will also have to belong to the European Union in the future”, said Scholz after a meeting with the Prime Minister Kosovar Albin Kurti. He pledged to have countries “create this very soon”. The region belongs to Europe.
Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have the status of EU candidate countries. As “potential” candidates, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are further away from membership. Scholz announced a trip to the Western Balkans in the second half. He will also invite the six Western Balkan countries to a meeting within the framework of the “Berlin Process” to promote regional cooperation.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo
The relationship between Kosovo and Serbia is problematic. Scholz also stressed that an understanding between the two countries was essential. “Especially at times like these, when a brutal war is being waged in our immediate vicinity, it is of utmost importance that the two countries gradually resolve their conflict.”
Kosovo, which is mainly inhabited by Albanians, broke away from Serbia in 1999 and declared independence in 2008. To this day, Serbia has not recognized it and continues to claim state territory recognized by Germany and most other EU countries.
Serbia open to rapprochement
Kurti demanded that the five EU states which, unlike Germany, have not yet recognized Kosovo’s independence do so as soon as possible. He stressed that his country was turned towards Europe and the West. “We have no perspective other than the EU and NATO,” he said.
After Kurti, Scholz also met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. It offered the prospect of a rapprochement with neighboring Kosovo. Vucic assured that he would do anything to reach a compromise.
Moscow’s strategic interests
The German government’s current focus on the region also has a lot to do with Russia: Moscow has enormous strategic interests there. At the end of March, Scholz had already spoken out in favor of a “clear European perspective” for the countries and justified it on the grounds that any further delay would make the Western Balkans vulnerable and open to influence from third parties.
Above all, the relationship between the Moscow government and Serbia is considered to be close. Serbian President Vucic condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, his government does not want to break with Moscow and join EU sanctions. “We agree with the Europeans on the nature of the conflict in Ukraine,” Vucic told Handelsblatt. “But whether Serbia accepts the sanctions or not doesn’t impress anyone in Russia.” Vucic stressed that Serbia was “not a submarine or a puppet” of Russia.