German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wants to accelerate the discussion about bringing the Western Balkan states closer to the European Union.
No more time should be lost in the efforts for integration and harmonization, the Green politician said on Friday after talks with her Slovenian counterpart Tanja Fajon in Berlin.
“No niche must be created in the Balkans in which Russia or other actors can settle,” Baerbock said. In addition to Russia, China is also seeking greater influence in the Western Balkans.
“The Western Balkans are geographically in the middle of the EU. We must also finally bring the people of the Western Balkans into our political centre,” Baerbock demanded.
The EU should have kept its promise to open accession negotiations in particular with North Macedonia and Albania, the minister said.
“It is in our own strategic interest and also a question of credibility,” Baerbock said.
Accession talks are under way with Montenegro and Serbia. In March 2020, the European Council agreed to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates for EU membership.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “the speed of the accession process or the speed of the progress is in their hands,” referring to countries willing to join the EU during a visit to the Czech Republic, who started its presidency of the Council of the European Union on Friday.
She said that it took the current EU members different lengths of time to join the bloc, from four to 10 years, and highlighted that some of nations eyeing EU membership have not made any progress for 20 years.
Baerbock, however, warned that if the EU does not fulfil its promises, someone else will offer new ones.