Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement today (11 April) prior to his departure for the Berlin Process Foreign Ministers Meeting in Warsaw:
Whether or not countries work with their neighbours has an enormous impact – one that goes far beyond the region involved. The Western Balkans region is of huge importance to us politically. Not only do the rifts that still partly determine political thinking there prevent reconciliation, they also hinder growth. In the Berlin Process, we are helping to overcome these rifts together. Our idea is to strengthen ties between people and the economic areas in the region through greater connectivity. Skopje and Athens have shown the way forward and that it is worthwhile resolving conflicts pragmatically and seeking the trust of one’s neighbours. We will continue to provide support because the achievements will pay off in the long term, both for the Western Balkans region and for Europe.
The Berlin Process is a joint initiative by EU countries, the six Western Balkan countries and the European Commission. The process supports the development of closer ties between the Western Balkans and the EU, the countries’ EU accession and enhanced regional cooperation. This includes fields such as solving bilateral problems, consolidating the rule of law, connectivity and economic development, and improving cooperation in education, research and intersocietal dialogue. At the conference in Warsaw, the focus will be on bilateral issues (conflict resolution and reconciliation), promoting youth exchange via the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and laying the groundwork for the next Heads of State and Government Western Balkans Summit, which will take place in Poland on 7 May.