EU-accession of Western Balkans ‘top of the agenda’ in Germany

Germany has made the EU integration of the Western Balkans a top priority for the government as their accession is geopolitically important for the EU, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday evening (19 May).

Since the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine started, the German government has intensified its efforts to accelerate the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU.

“The successful EU integration of our partners in the Western Balkans is in the very own interest of the European Union,” German chancellor Olaf Scholz stated during a press conference alongside his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte in The Hague.

“That is why it is at the top of the German government’s political agenda,” Scholz said, adding that the integration of the Western Balkans would be a “question of the European Union’s credibility and geostrategic rationality.”

Scholz already referred to the importance of the Balkans in the geopolitical scramble with Russia during his government address earlier the same day.

The integration of the Western Balkans would be of “strategic interest” for the EU, as the issue is “about our own security, which cannot be achieved without a stable European Western Balkans,” he told the Bundestag on Thursday.

During his press conference with the Dutch Prime Minister, Scholz particularly referred to the accession of North Macedonia and Albania.

“I think that the accession negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia, which were promised two years ago, should now be able to start,” Scholz stated.

While both countries are official candidates for EU membership, negotiations have stalled due to a veto by Bulgaria, which is at odds with North Macedonia due to historical and cultural reasons.

Scholz stressed that the EU now has to deliver vis-à-vis the Western Balkans and that he is committed to removing the last obstacles within the EU.

German Minister of State for Europe and Climate Anna Lührmann travelled to Bulgaria on Monday, where she discussed, among other things, the EU integration of the Western Balkans with her Bulgarian counterpart.

Ahead of the EU-Western Balkans summit in June, Scholz plans to visit the Western Balkans himself to lobby for his ideas.

The German ambitions to relaunch and accelerate the accession process in the Western Balkans are also strongly supported by the Netherlands.

“We are all trying together in the European Union to do everything in our power to ensure that the Western Balkans remain stable and that we find a solution for the problems that exist there, especially regarding North Macedonia and Bulgaria,” Dutch prime minister Rutte stated.

“This is only possible if Germany indeed takes a leading role here,” Rutte stressed, adding that he welcomes the German initiative.


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