Trip to the Western Balkans
On 21 and 22 February, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle visited Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In addition to bilateral relations, important issues discussed included the efforts of the two countries to move closer to the European Union. Current domestic political developments were also addressed during the Minister’s talks.
Foreign Minister Westerwelle and Albania’s President Nishani
© photothek / Trutschel
On the first leg of his trip, the Albanian capital Tirana, Foreign Minister Westerwelle met President Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Foreign Minister Edmond Panariti as well as Edi Rama, leader of the opposition Socialist Party of Albania, on 21 and 22 February.
Westerwelle stated in Tirana that Albania was a country “with challenges and with many great opportunities”. He said that he wanted relations between Germany and Albania to be “broader and also deeper”. Germany had provided a billion euro in support since 1998, which was also support for the shared European future.
Good neighbourly relations in the region
Visiting Albania’s Foreign Minister Panariti
© photothek / Trutschel
With regard to Albania’s desire to join the EU, Westerwelle said that the criteria for this would have to be met. “Our European order of peace and prosperity is based on clear principles – democracy, the rule of law, an independent judiciary and, above all, good neighbourly relations, which means settling differences through cooperation rather than aggressive rhetoric.” Everyone had to “deal responsibly with national sentiments”. It was also important for the country’s progress towards Europe that the elections scheduled for June were conducted in line with European principles.
Like all other Western Balkan countries, Albania was offered the prospect of joining the European Union by the European Council in Thessaloniki in 2003. As the European Council reiterated in 2006, a country’s progress towards this goal depends on its efforts to meet the stipulated accession criteria. This is also the position adopted by Germany. Albania officially applied to join the EU in 2009.
Next stop: Skopje
The German Foreign Minister had high-level talks in Skopje, the capital of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on 22 February: with President Gjorge Ivanov, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Fatmir Besimi and Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki, as well as with Branko Crvenkovski, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia.
Westerwelle gave assurances to his hosts saying “We hope the Macedonian efforts to become a fully fledged member of the Euro-Atlantic community will be successful.” Several steps still had to be taken on the road to EU accession. There would be no compromises on the criteria, but neither would there be additional hurdles. “Germany will keep its word,” stated the Minister.
This was Foreign Minister Westerwelle’s first visit to the two countries. Ahead of his departure, he outlined Germany’s policy on the countries of the Western Balkans as follows:
Germany backs the Western Balkans’ European prospects. We support Albanian and Macedonian efforts on their road towards the EU, as we do those of all other countries in the Western Balkans. That is why it is so important that the conditions and criteria to which this is linked are met in a credible and durable manner.
Last updated 22.02.2013