Merkel urges Western Balkans to focus on EU membership

Updated 14 hours, 3 minutes ago

TIRANA, Albania (AP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Albania on Tuesday to urge the leaders of the six Western Balkan states to step up regional cooperation in their struggle for EU membership.

Merkel welcomed the cooperation initiative, saying that “the more you cooperate, the stronger the Berlin process will be”. The Berlin Process is a program she launched in 2014 to boost regional cooperation between the countries of the Western Balkans.

“From a geostrategic point of view, the EU, or more concretely Germany, has its own interest in the accession of the countries (of the Western Balkans) to the EU”, she declared at a conference. Press.

The Western Balkan states – which include Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – are at different stages on the path to EU membership. Their progress in integration has been delayed recently due to the bloc’s stalled interest in enlargement and the years of diplomatic turmoil the EU faced when Britain left the bloc.

Following the veto of EU member Bulgaria, the launch of EU membership negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia has been postponed, although they have already met the criteria.

“The EU must keep its word and not always offer new conditions because it has no interest – perhaps for internal reasons in some countries – in moving the accession process forward. It causes disappointment and I can understand that disappointment, “Merkel said.” We have to trust each other. “

In the Serbian capital of Belgrade, which Merkel visited on Monday, she noted the presence of other contenders for Balkan nations, such as Russia and China.

Merkel will be greatly missed in the region, according to the Albanian leader.

“In the history of this region, Angela Merkel has set a milestone for decades to come,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

But Merkel assured her audience that “every German chancellor will have a heart for this region” as many people in the region now live and work in Germany, the EU’s largest economy.

Merkel did not stand for election this year after having led Germany since 2005. Germany is holding general elections on September 26.

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Kristen Grieshaber contributed from Berlin.

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