On 12 July, Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth participated in the Western Balkans Summit, which was attended by the region’s Heads of State and Government as well as Foreign and Economy Ministers. The Ministers met in Trieste to discuss specific projects to enhance regional integration among the six Western Balkan countries, primarily with a view to improving their economic and social perspectives. These efforts were launched in 2014 together with the Western Balkans’ European partners, under the heading of the Berlin Process.
“I’m particularly pleased that the Regional Youth Cooperation Office can now finally get down to work. That is a great success. By establishing networks and promoting exchange among young people, the office will substantially contribute to reconciliation in the region. After all, young people in the Western Balkans do not want to remain divided. Instead, they are pinning their hopes on a common future in the European Union. The European Union remains open to all countries of the Western Balkans. Western Balkan countries, for their part, need decisive reforms to strengthen the rule of law and democracy and to fight corruption. This can be a difficult task. We therefore want to support the region as it draws closer to the EU, with measures to promote regional cooperation, particularly regarding the establishment of infrastructure and networks. Stabilising our immediate neighbourhood is also in our own interest,” Minister of State Roth said after the meeting of Foreign Ministers.
Roth had just previously visited Belgrade and Skopje. In both Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, new governments had just recently been formed.
Belgrade: supporting Serbia on its way into the EU
In Serbia, Roth congratulated new Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on her election and at the same time underscored that Germany will continue to support Serbia on its way into the EU. He went on to say that Germany does also expect Serbia to press ahead with swift implementation of rule-of-law reforms and to play a constructive role, as the largest Western Balkan country, with a view to national reconciliation and stabilisation of the region. He also met with his Serbian counterpart, Ms Jadranka Joksimovic. Furthermore, his meetings included talks with civil society representatives, in order to learn more about their expectations and hear their assessments.
“With Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and my counterpart Jadranka Joksimovic, two pro-European politicians are in office who are both open to dialogue and highly committed to drawing Serbia closer to EU membership. I am very pleased about this, because I think it will help to achieve progress that should first and foremost benefit their country’s citizens,” the Minister of State for Europe went on to say.
Skopje: an opportunity to mend fences with neighbours
During his subsequent visit to Skopje, Roth met with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmanj and Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov. After a period of deadlock and political crisis, the country once again has a government.
“My impression of the first steps taken by the new government in Skopje is positive. The country once again has an opportunity to mend fences with its neighbours, draw closer to the EU and make progress with a view to promoting democracy and the rule of law. I am particularly pleased that the civil society representatives I met with share this view. It was high time for the strong emotions and political polarisation in the country to end and be replaced by constructive cooperation and a willingness to reconcile differences. Otherwise, the reforms that are urgently needed could not be implemented,” Roth said in an upbeat summary of his talks.