Germany pledges support to EU accession of Western Balkans ahead of EU summit

Germany has made the EU enlargement of the Western Balkans one of its top priorities. In mid-June Chancellor Olaf Scholz travelled to the region himself to underline the importance of the accession of Albania and North Macedonia to ensure stability in the region. [EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN]

German chancellor Olaf Scholz fully supports the candidacy status of Ukraine and Moldova and urged other EU states that the accession of the Western Balkans is equally important.

Germany has made the EU enlargement of the Western Balkans one of its top priorities. In mid-June Chancellor Olaf Scholz travelled to the region himself to underline the importance of the accession of Albania and North Macedonia to ensure stability in the region.

He is set to make true of this promise at the European Council summit on Thursday, where he will push to start negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

“The decision to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova is Europe’s response to the Zeitenwende. The countries of the Western Balkans also deserve the same clear answer,” he emphasised in a government statement in the Bundestag on Wednesday.

Albania and North Macedonia are currently in the waiting room for EU accession due to a veto by Bulgaria. While the government in Sofia is primarily concerned with the accession of North Macedonia due to historical and ethnic reasons, their veto also blocks the start of the negotiations with Tirana, as the negotiations of the two countries are tied together.

The governments of the two Western Balkan countries are uneasy over the constant delay of the process and even threatened to boycott the EU summit.

“It is right that the feeling of disturbance that the political leaders of these countries and their citizens are feeling is expressed,” Scholz said.

While he stated that the upcoming summit will “certainly not be easy” he emphasised that his government positions itself “in such a way that they know Germany is on their side.”

Bulgaria, however, finds itself in a difficult position too. Yesterday, the government lost a vote of non-confidence over the veto issue – effectively rendering a U-turn at the European Council impossible.

However, Scholz stressed that it would be high time that “everyone now jumps over their shadows and sees their responsibility for the big picture.”

The EU “must finally give the green light for accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia,” he added.

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