Germany supports EU membership of Western Balkan countries, says chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday reaffirmed Germany’s support to the Western Balkan countries and their integration into the EU.

“For the German government, a rapid integration of the six Western Balkan countries into the EU has a strategic importance,” Scholz told a joint news conference with Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama.

“We would like to welcome these countries as member states in the EU as soon as possible. For that, Albania’s progress in the EU membership process is also a very good signal,” he said.

Scholz said leaders of the EU and Western Balkan countries will gather in Tirana on Oct. 16 for a summit, as part of the Berlin Process initiative, to discuss further steps to enhance cooperation, and speed up the region's integration into the EU.

The German chancellor also raised the EU’s expectations from the Western Balkan countries for membership, stressing that further reforms were needed to strengthen the rule of law, press freedom, and fight against organized crime.

The German government has stepped up its diplomatic efforts toward the Western Balkans in recent months fearing that the Russia-Ukraine war could breed instability in the region.

After hosting a summit of EU and Western Balkan countries in Berlin last November, Scholz said Russia’s war on Ukraine has led to shifts in geopolitical assessments, and boosted the importance of Western Balkans for Europe.

The Western Balkan states have been waiting to join the EU for almost 20 years, but their membership bids were long stalled, due to regional problems, and the reluctance of the majority of EU states to take in new members.

Source: Anadolu Agency