German Chancellor Angela Merkel has wrapped up her farewell trip to the Balkans by pledging in Tirana that “regardless of how the German elections turn out, any new German chancellor will have a heart for the region.”
Merkel traveled to the Albanian capital on September 14, the second day of a two-day trip to the Western Balkans as she prepares to leave office after German elections later this month.
She met with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and the leaders of five other Western Balkan states that strive for membership in the European Union.
The previous day, in Belgrade, she said one of Germany’s goals was to see all six states — Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo –join the European Union, but that they had a “long way” to go before entering the bloc.
However, in Tirana, Merkel criticized some “old” EU countries for showing signs of “enlargement fatigue.”
“If the conditions for accession or for the start of accession talks are met, then the EU must keep its word,” Merkel said. She added that it was not fair for individual EU members to “keep making up new conditions because they don’t feel like dealing with potential new members for domestic political reasons.”
The six Balkan countries have for decades sought EU membership, but the bloc’s interest in enlargement has stalled.
Slovenia, which holds the EU rotating presidency, is preparing a summit of countries from the region in October to relaunch the enlargement process. The Western Balkan countries are at different stages of the process.
After a veto by EU-member Bulgaria, membership negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia were postponed despite the two states having fulfilled all criteria.
Montenegro and Serbia are the most advanced, having opened accession negotiations and chapters, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidate countries.