Scholz heads to Western Balkans to assist EU membership bid By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti shake fingers throughout a information convention in Berlin, Germany Might 4, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

By Sarah Marsh BERLIN (Reuters) -German Chancellor Olaf Scholz units off on a two-day tour of the Western Balkans on Friday in a bid to assist reinvigorate their long-stalled marketing campaign for European Union membership, ease regional tensions and fend off the affect of rival powers reminiscent of Russia. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has lent a brand new sense of urgency to the necessity to tie Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo nearer to the 27-member EU, whether or not by way of full membership or another group. Scholz’s go to comes sizzling on the heels of that of European Council President Charles Michel and forward of an EU-Western Balkans leaders’ summit on June 23. The prospect of EU membership had for years been the principle driver of reform and larger cooperation within the area after a decade of warfare and upheaval within the Nineteen Nineties, till EU growth stalled, spawning disillusionment. Unresolved conflicts there have given rise to new tensions currently, such because the pro-Russian Bosnian Serbs’ secession plans. “The actual fact it hasn’t occurred is an actual downside and the rising affect of different international locations like Russia and China is a results of this course of not creating,” stated Florian Bieber, a Balkan knowledgeable at Austria’s College of Graz. SCHOLZ FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITY Scholz’s authorities, which took workplace in December, has made the Western Balkans’ EU accession a overseas coverage precedence. “We is not going to give up this area within the coronary heart of Europe to Moscow’s affect,” stated International Minister Annalena Baerbock when she paid a go to there in March. The query is whether or not the brand new authorities is ready to give you an actual technique to push the method ahead or whether or not it would merely “muddle alongside” like former Chancellor Angela Merkel, who professed her assist for the area however did little to alter the dynamics, stated Bieber. Scholz will go to first Kosovo after which Serbia on Friday, after assembly with the leaders of each international locations final month in Berlin. Russian International Minister Sergei Lavrov had additionally been set to go to Serbia, which is making an attempt to stability its EU aspirations with its centuries-old alliance with the Kremlin, this week. However his go to was cancelled when close by international locations closed their airspace.
The German chancellor is ready to journey later to Thessaloniki in Greece for dinner with representatives of the South East European Cooperation Course of (SEECP), a 12-country Balkan regional physique. On Saturday, he travels on to North Macedonia and Bulgaria, that are locked in a dispute stopping the beginning of accession talks for the previous nation.

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