Scholz heads to Western Balkans to help EU membership bid -Breaking
By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN (Reuters), – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz embarks on a two day tour through the Western Balkans this Friday to support their campaign for European Union membership. He also hopes to ease tensions in the region and counter the power of Russia.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine gives rise to an urgency for the need to link Montenegro and Serbia to the EU.
Scholz’s trip follows the footsteps of Charles Michel, President European Council. This is just before the summit of EU-Western Balkans Leaders scheduled for June 23.
After a decade of conflict and turmoil in the 1990s and the subsequent collapse of the EU, the prospect of EU membership was for many years the driving force behind reform and increased cooperation.
Recent tensions have been created by unresolved conflicts, like the pro-Russian Bosnian Serbs’ secession plans.
Florian Bieber is an expert on Balkans at the University of Graz in Austria.
SCHOLZ FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITY
Scholz’s government was inaugurated in December. It has made Western Balkans EU membership a priority for foreign policy.
Annalena Baerbock, the Foreign Minister was there to observe March’s progress.
It is unclear whether or not the new government will be able to develop a strategy that moves the process forward.
After having met with representatives of Serbia and Kosovo last month, Scholz will be visiting the two countries on Friday.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was also scheduled to visit Serbia this week. Serbia is seeking to reconcile its EU ambitions with its centuries-old relationship with Russia. However, his trip was cancelled after neighbouring countries closed their airspace.
The German Chancellor has been scheduled to fly to Thessaloniki (Greece) later in the evening to meet with South East European Cooperation Process members. This 12-country Balkan regional group is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the South East European Cooperation Process.
His Saturday trip will take him to North Macedonia (Bulgaria) and Bulgaria (North Macedonia), which are in dispute over whether or not they can start accession negotiations.