Clear commitment to EU prospects for the Western Balkan states

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Federal Chancellor attends Tirana summit Clear commitment to EU prospects for the Western Balkan states

“The future of the Western Balkans is in the European Union. This promise still applies, and it applies now more than ever,” said Federal Chancellor Scholz at the Western Balkans summit in Tirana. As host of the summit, Albania is the first Western Balkan country to host a summit in the history of the Berlin Process.

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Federal Chancellor Scholz at a joint press conference with Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Joined by Prime Minister Rama and EU Commission President von der Leyen, Federal Chancellor Scholz said the Berlin Process was helping Western Balkan states along their journey to joining the EU.

Photo: Federal Government/Koehler

Federal Chancellor Scholz said it was “a good sign” that a Berlin Process summit was taking place in the Western Balkans for the first time. He was speaking at a joint press conference with the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen held in the Albanian capital on Monday evening.

Value of the Berlin Process

Scholz stressed that it was even better that all the region's prime ministers had come to Tirana, and said this exemplified the value of the Berlin Process, through which the six Western Balkan states are to become members of the European Union. And the Federal Chancellor reiterated that “It’s now high time for that.”

Who are the Western Balkan states? The term “Western Balkans” has political as well as geographical significance. It was adopted as an official EU term at the 1998 EU summit in Vienna and refers to those states on the Balkan peninsula which are not yet members of the EU. This is why Albania, the Yugoslav successor states Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are all counted as Western Balkan States, but not Slovenia and Croatia, which joined the EU in 2004 and 2013 respectively.

Scholz strongly condemns violence

Turning to the latest tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, the Federal Chancellor warned against concealing these recent setbacks to the process of reconciliation in the region. “It is only a few weeks ago that police officers in Kosovo were brutally attacked and one officer was killed. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms,” Scholz said.

Making tangible progress

Scholz also stressed that there was no getting around the need for regional cohesion and the resolution of “conflicts which have been smouldering for far too long.” He called for concrete and tangible progress for all who live in the Western Balkans, including “Agreements which make daily life easier, which bring people together and – this is vital – agreements which foster the necessary trust,” he said, noting the significant contribution which the Berlin Process had made towards this since 2014.

What is the Berlin Process? The Federal Government established the so-called Berlin Process back in 2014, when the Western Balkans conferences were initiated. The goal of this series of annual conferences is to promote peace, security and stability in the Western Balkan states and to support development in the region. The Process is designed to contribute to improving cooperation among the Western Balkan states. Prior to the Tirana conference, the last summit meeting was held in Berlin in 2022.

Specific resolutions from Tirana

Scholz then moved on to discuss four specific agreements which had been reached in Tirana.

  • Point 1: Climate change is having a particularly marked effect on Western Balkan states. “Through a regional German-Western Balkan Climate Partnership we want to support the fight against climate change and give specific support for the use of renewable energy,” Scholz said, adding that Germany would provide 1.5 billion euros in the period up to 2030 for these goals.
  • Point 2: “The Western Balkan states want and need to pull together,” Scholz said, adding that this also affected small cross-border traffic. The three mobility agreements signed in Berlin last November had now been ratified by almost all countries and were now coming into force, he said. Scholz added, “A further fourth mobility agreement was signed today, which provides mutual recognition for four more vocational qualifications.”
  • Thirdly, the Federal Chancellor said Germany was providing 1.2 million euros of funding to the RAIKO regional youth cooperation office, and 300,000 euros to the new youth culture fund.
  • Fourthly, the Federal Chancellor explained that the Federal Government was providing an additional 73 million euros for a new Climate Programme Albania programme, which aims to accelerate the integration of renewable energy.
Federal Chancellor Scholz at the summit meeting in Tirana.

Federal Chancellor Scholz travelled to Tirana for the first summit to be held in the region itself.

Photo: Federal Government/Koehler

Federal Chancellor supports EU accession ambitions

“The future of the Western Balkans is in the European Union. This promise still applies, and it applies now more than ever,” said the Federal Chancellor when pledging his support for EU membership prospects for the six Western Balkan states.

He added it was up to any country which wanted to join the EU to determine the speed of the process. “These countries need to get in shape to join the EU,” he said. “The key to this is reforms, which were a topic that we again discussed in some detail today.”

Celebrating the 10th anniversary in Germany

Scholz described the Berlin Process as a success story and said he was determined “to add further chapters through Germany’s commitment to it.” Looking ahead to the tenth anniversary of the process next year, he said, “We want to celebrate it properly and hold the next meeting in Germany. I’m looking forward to it.