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The Western Balkans: No progress without reconciliation

Foreign Minister Maas setting off for Warsaw

Foreign Minister Maas setting off for Warsaw, © Janine Schmitz/photothek.net

11.04.2019 - Article

Foreign Minister Maas travels to Warsaw for the Berlin Process meeting

Even now, relations among the Balkan States are still burdened by the trauma of the Yugoslav Wars. The continuing tensions also hinder the region’s economic development.

Germany therefore supports reconciliation and good-neighbourly relations among the countries of the Western Balkans. The Berlin Process, a series of high‑level conferences to advance regional cooperation launched by Germany in 2014, is of particular importance in this context. The Foreign Ministers of the Berlin Process including the six Western Balkan states are meeting in Warsaw on 11 and 12 April 2019.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas: Conflicts are hampering reconciliation and growth

Before his departure for Warsaw, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement:

Not only do the rifts that still often determine political thinking there hamper reconciliation, they also hinder growth. The aim must be to resolve conflicts pragmatically and gradually re‑establish trusting relations.

In the long term, the Minister continued, progress in regional cooperation would pay off, both for Europe and for the Western Balkan states themselves. So it is also in their own interest for Germany and the other Berlin Process partners to help build economically strong and stable democracies in south-eastern Europe.

At the conference in Warsaw, the focus will be on conflict resolution and reconciliation, promoting youth exchange and laying the groundwork for the next Heads of State and Government Western Balkans Summit, which will take place on 5 July. While in Poland, Foreign Minister Maas will also hold talks with his Polish counterpart, Jacek Czaputowicz, and take part in a German-Polish citizens forum on the future of Europe.

Overcoming the shadows of the past

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have developed rapidly since the 1990s. However, they are still a long way from meeting EU standards in many areas. One reason for this is the continuing impact of the wars that followed the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Germany and its EU partners are working to counter this: in order to advance reconciliation and cooperation, the aim is to promote mutual exchange, through business and infrastructure projects, but also through the foundation of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) for the Western Balkans.

North Macedonia as a role model: Reconciliation is possible!

The historic agreement between Greece and North Macedonia to end their name dispute shows that even profound differences can be overcome through mutual trust.

Reconciliation in the Western Balkans is a precondition for the countries of the region being able one day to join the European Union. Moving towards this, Germany is committed to the “support and demand” principle. The German Government supports numerous programmes on the ground to promote the countries’ economic and political development. At the same time, Germany monitors very closely whether the necessary reforms required to move closer to the EU are actually being implemented in full.

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